Veterinarian Malpractice Risks Mostly Due to Poor Documentation
A malpractice claim could bring dire circumstances to you as a veterinarian or your veterinarian practice. The cost for many veterinary procedures rival those of medical procedures for humans. With most pet owners spending between $500 and $1,000 per year on their pet— and closer to $1,500 to $2,000 during the first year— it’s easy to see people value their animal’s wellbeing. Moreover, veterinary medicine is a billion-dollar industry. People care greatly about their furry family members, and they are increasingly willing to spend top-dollar in order to keep them healthy and for years to come. Recall the adage, “With great power comes great responsibility.” When a pet’s life or health is on the line, there is an equal expectation that the care they receive will be of the highest quality. It’s difficult to obtain statistics on the exact number of lawsuits filed against veterinarians for malpractice, but one source estimates that there are more than 2,000 cases of veterinary malpractice filed in U.S. courts every year.
The Four Most Common Reasons for Veterinary Malpractice:
- Unskillful surgeries and improper post-surgical care
- Problems with vaccinations
- Misuse or improper administration of medications or drugs
- Failure to inform a client of the availability of alternate treatments and the risks involved in treatments
How a Malpractice Claim is Filed
In order for one of your patients or pet owners to file a malpractice suit, they need quite a bit of documentation. First, they need to provide proof of “duty of care,” which means something that shows their pet was under your care. This is an easy one, since treatment is generally scheduled ahead of time. Second, they have to prove that your actions or inactions fell below the professional standards of care— referred to as “breach.” This is an example of how critical it is to properly and comprehensively document what’s happening with each pet patient at the time of service. Third, they have to prove “proximate cause,” which is that the deviation from the professional standard of care was the cause of the pet patient’s injury. Lastly, they have to prove that there was not only an injury to their pet, but also that they suffered “damages.” As an accredited veterinarian, it’s part of your legal duty to properly identify animals and record identification on certain official documents, such as a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVIs), test charts and vaccination charts. Keeping healthy documentation habits will provide protection for you down the road if you find yourself in the middle of a malpractice claim.
Defense Against a Malpractice Claim
There are several legal defenses a veterinarian may use in their malpractice claim. One of the most common defenses is called the statute of limitations. A Michigan State University brief summary of veterinary malpractice states: a statute of limitation is a law at the state level that puts a limit on the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit, usually from the time the injury occurred or when he or she discovered the injury. The ability to file a malpractice claim against a veterinarian and the eligible defenses vary from state to state. It’s important to be knowledgeable about the laws in the state where you are licensed. Another common defense in veterinary malpractice cases is called Good Samaritan, where the veterinarian gave care in an emergency situation. No matter the situation, legal affairs can get quite complicated for anyone who hasn’t studied law. That’s why being covered by veterinary professional liability insurance is extremely valuable, giving you access to legal guidance and protecting you against fiscal penalties.
Protect Your Veterinary Practice from Malpractice Risks
360 Coverage Pros offers unparalleled Veterinary Professional Liability Insurance for veterinarians and veterinary practices offering companion animal veterinary-inspired services. These include lizards, rabbits, birds, small rodents, dogs, cats, sheep and more exotic species. Protect your practice, employees and interests, both in your office and outside during various field visits. Safeguarding yourself against accusations of negligence and malpractice has never been easier. The 360 Coverage Pros Veterinarian Professional Liability Program provides peace of mind while you focus on running your practice. With one of the easiest click-and-bind coverage processes in the industry at extremely affordable prices, the choice is easy! If you have any questions about how you should apply for coverage, please schedule a consultation with an expert.
360 Coverage Pros can provide you and your business many benefits including:
- A program specifically designed for Veterinarians working exclusively with companion animals, which cover the business entity, independent contractors/ employees and additional insureds.
- 24/7 access to a legal advisement hotline, exclusively for insured policyholders.
- No deductible.
- Monthly payments starting at just $17.50.
- A fast and easy online application.
- Instant proof of insurance.
- A painless automatic renewal process.
- First-class customer care professionals.
Looking for non-companion animal coverage? Get a custom quote.