In a recent review, I noted that almost 10% of my cases involved individuals who had sustained a dental injury in an accident. It is perhaps not the most common type of injury when you think of a personal injury claim.
Accidents involving dental injuries are common
Claims involving dental injuries are not limited to individuals biting into foreign objects, although these types of cases are fairly common. I will never forget the case involving the gentleman who ordered pheasant at an expensive London restaurant who bit into a pellet which broke a tooth. I have also acted for a child who fell from a defective climbing frame breaking several teeth as well adults who have been the victim of assault where dental and facial injuries have been sustained. Dental injuries occur as part of a catalogue of injuries in the more serious cases. A recent more serious case involved an individual who had a cycling accident and shattered their jaw as well as a number of teeth.
How do you prove the severity of a dental injury to value a personal injury claim?
As with all personal injury claims, once liability (fault) has been established, it is necessary to prove the extent of the injury by obtaining medical evidence. A dental expert is instructed to comment on the injury and whether there is a causative link to the accident.
The expert will also comment on the treatment that is required as a result of the accident and only this is a recoverable cost from the defendant. Therefore, if an individual has a broken tooth as a result of the accident, the cost of replacing the tooth will be recoverable, but if they have not been to the dentist in the last 5 years and require fillings, this won’t be recoverable as it is not linked to the accident.
How much compensation could you receive as part of a dental injury?
Dental injuries are valued in the same way as other personal injury claims; by considering case law and also by using the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). Surprisingly, a simple broken tooth does not attract much by way of compensation. The JCG state that the loss of or damage to a back tooth is in the region of £960 to £1,500, increasing to £9,650 to £10,010 where several front teeth have been damaged or lost.
The value of a claim will depend on the extent of the treatment required and the degree of discomfort of the treatment and whether there is any difficulty with eating.
Associated injuries relating to the incident
In the more serious cases which we deal with such as the one referred to above, the individual not only broke several teeth but also fractured their jaw. This has led to the jaw being displaced resulting in clicking, an altered bite as well as permanent numbness and the risk of osteoarthritis. In this case a Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon, a Dental Surgeon as well as a Consultant Psychiatrist were needed to comment on the injuries. Given the extent of the injuries and the treatment required, the compensation in a case was more significant.
The psychological impact of dental injuries can be severe. In cases where front teeth are missing this may prevent the injured person from leaving the house, attending work and relationships may be affected. If treatment is delayed or particularly extensive this can have a negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing. The incident itself causing the dental injuries is often quite traumatic. As a result, psychological injuries are often associated with dental injuries.
Claiming for ongoing treatment
What tends to significantly increase the value of dental injury claims is the treatment that is required. As most people know, dental treatment can be incredibly expensive. Often treatment is not a one off but follow up appointments are required. As stated above, the cost of any treatment that is required as a direct result of the accident can be claimed from the defendant. When a case settles, the cost of any future treatment that is required will be included in the settlement.
Therefore, whilst the compensation itself for a simple broken tooth may be minimal, the cost of the associated treatment may be significant. A delay in seeking treatment may make the injuries worse. It is therefore important that an individual who has sustained dental injuries seeks assistance as soon as possible so that a claim can be initiated and treatment arranged as soon as possible.