Practicing dentistry across the pond in the United Kingdom has become more and more challenging in the last decade, due in part to the aggressive tactics of lawyers who are sometimes referred to as “ambulance chasers.”
These lawyers specialize in personal injury claims, and attract clients with the promise of no up-front fees under the slogan “no win, no fee.” They promise to charge only if they win the client’s case, which means little up front risk for patients who are convinced to pursue legal recourse against alleged malpractice.
According to a recent article in The Telegraph, a media outlet in the U.K., dentists there are twice as likely to be sued as they were a decade ago. Many of these new claims are being made in relation to the treatment and diagnosis of periodontal disease, which can date back to decades and therefore lead to higher payouts.
As a result, indemnity costs for dentists have increased by 400 percent over the same period, while earnings fell by an average of 35 percent, according to research by the British Dental Association (BDA). Growing regulatory compliance costs were identified as a key factor in the earnings decline.
A study conducted by Dental Protection, a defense organization for dentists, found that 91% of dentists believe they are more likely to be sued now than they were five years ago.
Calls for legal reform have been made to limit legal claims to a 10-year window, and to fix a ceiling on recoverable costs to prevent lawyers from charging disproportionately high fees.
American dentists aren’t the only ones who have to deal with aggressive ambulance chasers.