Hundred thousand pound dental compensation claims quadruple

The number of claims against dental professionals exceeding one hundred thousand pounds in compensation and legal costs has quadrupled over the last decade, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) said today.

In 2015, the DDU settled 11 compensation claims for more than £100,000 on behalf of its dental members. By contrast in 2006, just two settled claims exceeded that figure.

Over the last ten years, the DDU paid out nearly £5 million to compensate patients and pay legal costs in claims that exceeded £100,000. The highest amount paid in compensation to a patient was £120,000 for failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease leading to tooth loss.

In another case about the fitting of crowns, the patient also received in excess of £100,000 compensation. Other cases exceeded £200,000 when the claimant's legal fees were taken into account.

John Makin, head of the DDU, said:

'We are seeing disturbing rises in the cost of clinical negligence claims and a surge of claims exceeding a hundred thousand pounds against our dental members. These payments are no reflection on clinical standards, which remain high, but rather a result of a combination of rising patient expectations and the availability of 'no win, no fee' arrangements for clinical negligence claims.

'It is telling that over the last three years, we have paid out more in claimants' solicitors' legal costs than in compensation to patients. There have already been legal reforms to make the fees claimants' lawyers charge in personal injury cases more proportionate to the damages received by the patient and further proposals to cap fees have been announced.

'Nonetheless, the combination of the increases in the size and number of compensation claims is leading to a toxic mix in which indemnity is becoming more expensive for individual dental professionals.

'While the current climate is challenging for dental professionals, who are more likely than ever before to face a claim with all the distress that may cause, the DDU has a good track record of supporting members and defending cases on their behalf. Over the last 10 years we made no compensation payment in over 50% of cases.'

Common allegations made by patients were that implants or cosmetic treatment were unsatisfactory, excessive, or that the appearance was not as expected. Other allegations were about the diagnosis or treatment of periodontal disease.

This guidance was correct at publication 11/04/2016. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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