8 June 2010
Q. I have a letter from a solicitor on behalf of a patient regarding trauma to her front tooth in order for her to make a claim. I have already given the patient a letter explaining the various options and costs depending on the success of the first line approach to root fill the tooth. Her solicitor has now asked me to estimate the likelihood of the possible need for an implant if an extraction is required so that this can be included in the claim.
It sounds as if you have may have supplied a report to the solicitor via your patient, to explain what treatment you think the patient requires and some of the possibilities going forward. The solicitor is now asking you to write a different sort of report. Your first report was as a witness of fact as you are the treating dentist, but you are now being asked to write as an expert witness.
I am sure you are aware, that in the rare cases of claims that go to civil court, any of the witnesses can be called to court. You would be perfectly alright in regards to your recent report to the solicitor, but you might not feel that you could act as an expert witness in court.
No clinician should act outside their area of expertise and it would be perfectly reasonable to advise the solicitor that he will need a dental expert to assess the probabilities in this case. All solicitors have access to a database of experts and it should be no trouble to identify one.
If this patient has a good case against whoever caused the trauma, then she will recover the cost of the expert report.
You can read more about writing expert reports here