If I wanted to make a compensation claim because my dentist failed to identify a tooth infection, how would I account for it on the application for assessment to the Injuries Board?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

If your dentist failed to identify a tooth infection, a claim for compensation would have to be made with the assistance of a solicitor rather than via the Injuries Board process because a claim for the failure to diagnose an infected tooth is considered to be alleged medical negligence, and the Injuries Board do not have a remit to assess claims which are resolved by medical opinion.

Indeed before you claim compensation for an avoidable tooth infection, you would have to explain to the solicitor how you discovered that the tooth was infected, how long it was after your dentist failed to identify a tooth infection the correct diagnosis was made and how the infected tooth was treated (extraction/antibiotics etc.).

If you solicitor feels that you have a claim for the failure to diagnose an infected tooth, he or she will engage the services of an independent dental expert, who would study your dental records, assess whether ‘at the time and in the circumstances’ a competent dentist would have identified the tooth infection and confirm if your dentist was indeed guilty of negligence when he or she overlooked the development of a tooth infection.

Should the independent dental expert confirm your eligibility to claim compensation for an avoidable tooth infection, your solicitor will then send a ‘Letter of Claim’ to the dental practice or hospital where you underwent your treatment. The letter will advise the dentist that you are making a claim for the failure to diagnose an infected tooth and inviting the dentist (through their medical insurance company) to make an offer of settlement.

Once liability for the dentist´s error is acknowledged, and an offer of compensation is forthcoming, your solicitor will advise you whether the offer is appropriate in respect of the level of injury you sustained and the dental work that still may required to repair the damage caused by the infection. If liability in your compensation claim because your dentist failed to identify a tooth infection is denied, your solicitor will issue court proceedings.

A claim for the failure to diagnose an infected tooth rarely goes to court because the dentist´s insurance company would rather settle your claim than take a chance on what verdict a judge may deliver and the additional court costs that the insurance company could be liable for. However, this scenario is less likely to occur when your solicitor has built the strongest possible claim on your behalf and, in order for that to happen, it is your best interests to contact a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.