Vicarious liability – it’s a risky business
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General dental practitioners often envisage that the risks they have are related to them personally as an individual and to their own practice and rarely consider that their employees also affect their risk profile. Most dental practices consist of a dental team that comprises at a minimum of a receptionist, a dental assistant and the dentist. Usually, the receptionist and the dental assistant are employees of the dentist. In addition, a practice may employ a dental therapist or an oral hygienist and he or she may function to their own account or as an employee of the dentist.1 The dentist, as an employer, can be held responsible for any negligent acts or omissions that the employee commits while performing duties within the scope of his or her employment. This responsibility extends not only to any treatment procedures provided, but also includes any explanations or verbal instructions given to patients by employees. This responsibility is termed “vicarious liability” and it includes all acts or omissions of both lay and professional staff whether or not the staff member was acting according to the instructions given. A dentist must ensure that any employee, locum, or independent contractor working for the practice, who themselves may have a high level of clinical autonomy, has indemnity in their own right. In addition, partners can individually or jointly be liable in legal actions brought against the partnership, and similarly it is essential that each partner and every assistant is appropriately indemnified or insured.