Disagreements can occur between anyone, no matter who they are, or what they do. For dental professionals, a disagreement between 2 parties, be they business partners, employees (or associates), or suppliers can quickly escalate to a serious legal dispute which is as much a stress-inducing burden, as it is costly. The process of taking legal action, or litigation, can often be avoidable as long as you take the necessary steps to prepare for such eventualities. As the old saying goes – “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.
Practitioners all lead very busy lives, with not much free time to worry beyond the pressures of meeting patients’ demands and expectations. In addition, practice owners are also running a complex business. If a problem develops within the practice, some dentists may make the mistake of ignoring it, so by the time they seek legal help there are a whole host of issues to deal with. One of the most common misconceptions of dental law specialists is that they cost practitioners money – the reality is however that more often they can save practitioners from footing the bill of expensive legal fees.
Disputes are often caused by a lack of clarity, so by providing appropriate legal advice from the outset, drafting appropriate agreements and policies and ensuring practitioners are aware of their rights and obligations, the risk of a dispute ensuing can be reduced significantly. Disputes become much more likely if a practice, for instance, does not have clear written contracts with the dentists working there or between two or more of the practice owners. Or if they do have written agreements - do they properly reflect the working relationships they relate to?
Not only can a dispute lead to huge legal expenses and disruption of the business, reputations can also be permanently damaged and individuals left feeling as though they have been treated unfairly, which could have a negative effect on their day-to-day lives. Solicitors can help by preparing all the appropriate paperwork, contracts, and agreements, to minimise the risk of a dispute – and in the event one does arise, reduce the impact it has on you and the business.
When there is a dispute, whether it is between business partners, employees, or suppliers, instructing an experienced dental solicitor at an early stage gives you the best chance at mitigating any negative effects and reaching a satisfactory resolution. Once matters escalate and are brought before a court, the legal expenses can often outweigh the value of the claim itself. And once the court process has started you cannot simply change your mind and reverse out of it!
Even with appropriate steps taken, sometimes a dispute cannot be avoided. Dental practice owners, for example, have been known to fall out with their associate dentists (and vice versa) and occasionally terminate the associate agreement without grounds or sufficient notice to them – sometimes, this is in breach of the terms of that contract, which results in the owner having to pay compensation on top of legal costs, despite the fact that the associate may have been in the wrong in the first place.
The expert team at Goodman Grant can aid in the task of drafting appropriate agreements and advice in in relation to your existing agreement and any conduct issues. If a dispute has already arisen, we can advise you of the options available and associated benefits and pitfalls of each potential solution to support individuals and help them achieve the best outcome before irreversible steps are taken.
While it is human nature to disagree, there are conclusions to be drawn and lessons to be learned from every argument. Practitioners should be as prepared to prevent or settle disputes, as they are to tending the needs of patients. Seeking legal guidance or advice on these matters is always the wisest decision.