Expert Testimony in Dentistry

Unveiling the Truth Behind Civil Claims and Clinical Negligence

Research involving examining Westlaw settlement reports related to plastic surgery cases from 2009 to 2015 found that parties who instructed a plastic surgeon as an expert witness were more likely to win their case. This finding translates across professional disciplines. When it comes to civil claims and clinical negligence cases, the expertise of dental witnesses contributes to fair and informed judicial outcomes. Dentists are used to analysing and extracting lots of information and presenting it in easy to understand language which provides an ideal foundation for assisting the Court in deciding on dentistry-related cases. 

Expert Testimony in Dentistry

What is the scope of a dental expert witness’s duties and responsibilities?

Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules sets out the procedures for expert witnesses. Part 35.3 provides that an expert’s duty is to help the Court on matters that are within their expertise. It is vital to note that this duty goes above any obligation to the person from whom an expert has received instructions or by whom the expert is paid. Supplementing the Civil Procedure Rules, the Civil Practice Directions also provide guidelines regarding what must be contained in the expert’s report. Practice Direction 35 sets out how experts and those instructing them should conduct themselves. The key points of these rules are:

  • Experts should assist the Court by providing objective, unbiased opinions on matters within their expertise, and should not assume the role of an advocate.
  • Experts should consider all material facts, including those that may contradict their opinions.
  • If an expert’s view changes on any material matter following the production of a report, they must inform all parties, including the Court, straight away.

What are the methodologies used by dental experts to examine evidence?

A dentist expert witness may be asked to provide an opinion or report relating to:

  • The Claimant’s current condition and prognosis.
  • If there has been a breach of duty (in clinical negligence cases).
  • If the care fell seriously below the standard expected (in GDC cases).
  • Causation (whether or not an alleged injury, loss, or damage was caused by the negligence in question).

The ability to analyse, interpret, and report on dental images and patient medical reports is an essential part of an expert witnesses role. In addition, most dental expert witnesses have worked in NHS dentistry for a long time and can explain to the Court the intricacies of NHS contracts, especially concerning the long waiting lists/inability to see an NHS dentist and how this may have affected the standard of care provided.

What are the significance of a dental expert witness’s findings?

Parties to a claim can enlist the aid of an expert witness to determine the main reason behind a civil or clinical negligence claim against a dentist and offer insights into the long-term outlook for repair and recovery in relation to the Claimant.

In instances involving negligence, the Claimant must demonstrate, on the balance of probabilities:

  • That a duty of care was owed to them,
  • That this duty of care was breached, and
  • That they suffered harm as a consequence of the breach.

Due to the potential complexity of identifying the primary cause of dental negligence, expert evidence is often necessary to establish causation and address any issues pertaining to the extent of the damage. In addition, if compensation is awarded, expert witnesses are frequently called upon to provide quantum reports, aiding the Court in determining the appropriate sum of the award.

Wrapping up

Dental expert witnesses have a wealth of experience that can help the Court reach fair and just conclusions. For example, they are often part of professional networks which share knowledge and information about new dental procedures and schools of thought. Therefore, they have available the most up-to-date expertise to present to legal teams and the Court.

If you wish to learn more about how a dental expert can assist in Civil Proceedings, then please watch our latest video:

How can Expert Court Reports Ltd help?

At Expert Court Reports, we have many experts who can provide opinions via reports or through evidence in Court. Whether your client is a Defendant in a civil claim or criminal matter or a Claimant navigating the legal landscape for the first time, we can provide sensitive and authoritative expert opinions that will assist the Court in its decision.

We have several dental experts who can provide evidence in claims arising from dental trauma personal injury claims. Our team can also provide expert reports on chronic pain as well as psychological matters.

Expert Court Reports provides expert witnesses and medicolegal court reports for solicitors, barristers and other agencies including the police, probation services, prisons, and third-sector organisations as well as private clients. To discuss any issues raised in this article, please call us on 01865 587865, email office@expertcourtreports.co.uk, or request a call by completing our online form