When you take your pets to a vet, you are trusting the pet’s health to a professional who can diagnose and help animals. Many people consider their pets to be members of their family and care greatly for them. When veterinary care harms your pet, rather than providing healthcare, it’s emotionally devastating and confusing. Even effective veterinarians can cause harm through negligence, while some vets are malicious in their care.
It’s important to talk with an attorney if your pet was harmed by veterinarian care. Your pet may have worsened after vet care or even died. It can be unthinkable that a vet would be so negligent and careless, but it unfortunately happens. Veterinary malpractice claims can be complex, especially because your pet can’t voice what has happened to them. That is why these claims need to be handled by legal professionals who can help you determine what legal avenue makes sense for your situation and help you gather the necessary evidence of negligence.
At The Animal Law Firm, we fight for the underdog. We believe in fighting for justice for you and your pets, and we have successfully represented hundreds of animals. We deal with pet-unique legal defense and representation, and we have years of experience that we can use to provide you with great legal counsel. We believe in placing animal welfare and rights first.
Veterinary malpractice is similar to human medical malpractice. Veterinarians are held to a standard of care for animals, just as other healthcare providers must uphold a standard of care for their patients. A breach of this standard of care, such as negligence, carelessness, or incompetence, that causes an animal harm, injury, or illness is veterinary malpractice. Common types of veterinary malpractice cases include:
Pet owners have a difficult task proving that their animal’s injury, illness, or death was the result of negligence. Because animals cannot tell us about their experiences, owners need to know what to do if they suspect veterinary malpractice.
Not all harm to your pet constitutes a veterinary malpractice claim. A mistake made by a vet is not necessarily malpractice. Even if your pet’s health declines after vet care, this doesn’t mean that the veterinarian was operating negligently. For a veterinarian malpractice claim to be valid and successful, the following must be true:
We understand how traumatic an experience like veterinary malpractice is. Unfortunately, under Pennsylvania law, it can be difficult to get adequate compensation. The state will not provide emotional compensation for the loss of a pet. Because of this, most veterinary malpractice claims are based on economic losses. The Animal Law Firm’s attorneys can help you determine if a civil claim is the ideal path to justice for your pet.
Veterinary malpractice claims are more complex than many pet owners realize. The attorneys at The Animal Law Firm have years of experience filing and proving these cases and can help you gather essential evidence, such as medical records and communication with the vet. We can help you decide whether to file a civil malpractice claim or a formal complaint with the relevant agencies.
There are several steps you can take if you believe your pet has suffered from veterinary malpractice.
To file a claim, another veterinarian must write a certificate of merit, which states that what the other veterinarian did was malpractice. It can be difficult to find veterinarians willing to do this. A veterinarian malpractice attorney has contacts with outside veterinarians who can provide a second opinion and potentially a certificate of merit. Your attorney can also determine if the veterinarian has had other malpractice claims filed against them, which may strengthen your claim.
Yes, you can file a civil claim for veterinary malpractice against a veterinarian who has acted negligently in their care and caused a pet harm. Before you file a civil claim, you must file a complaint with the state veterinary board. An attorney can help you determine if a civil claim is the ideal path forward.
It’s important that negligent or careless veterinarians are held accountable for their actions. If your pet was injured, became ill, or died because of a veterinarian’s carelessness, filing a civil claim may be an option. It’s important to talk with an animal rights attorney to determine whether a malpractice claim is in your interests.
Unfortunately, veterinary malpractice claims are complex, expensive, and may not provide significant compensation. In some cases, it isn’t financially wise to file a malpractice claim against your vet, as these are costly ventures.
An attorney will likely recommend you go forward with a malpractice claim if you suffered high veterinary costs. This is because these damages are economic in nature and will likely be awarded if your malpractice claim is found valid. Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize damages such as loss of companionship or emotional suffering when a pet dies, as the law considers pets to be property.
To file a successful veterinary malpractice claim, another veterinarian must sign a certificate of merit, or the attorney must sign an affidavit stating that the vet didn’t meet a professional standard of care. Then, the veterinarian’s insurance provider will use their significant resources to file several motions to dismiss. They may also attempt to negotiate a settlement. Additionally, the claim must then go through processes such as:
This is a complex and costly undertaking. Although many court cases go through similar proceedings, a veterinary malpractice claim generally cannot recover any non-economic damages. This significantly lowers the amount of compensation a pet owner may be able to receive.
At The Animal Law Firm, we strongly believe that pets are a part of the family. However, they are considered property under Pennsylvania law. You can usually only recover monetary damages, such as medical costs. That is why going through this time-consuming process often only makes sense if you stand to gain significant economic damages. You may receive economic damages from:
In some very extreme circumstances, where the veterinarian is found to be extremely negligent or malicious, the court may award punitive damages. These are damages made to punish the person being filed against. To get punitive damages, a very high burden of proof needs to be met.
Even if filing a malpractice claim isn’t the right path for your situation, there are still ways to hold a veterinarian accountable for their negligence. That way, you can prevent any harm to others’ pets in the future.
Your attorney can help you file a complaint with the state’s veterinary board, which can be done through the Pennsylvania State Department’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. By filing a complaint, an investigation will be opened by the veterinary board and other agencies. This investigation may lead to the veterinarian suffering:
Even if no disciplinary action is taken based on your complaint, it will remain on record and be useful evidence if future complaints are filed.
Additional methods to get compensation and justice for your pet’s injury or death include:
An attorney can help you draft a letter of demand. Often, these are sent after a veterinary board investigation is found valid and the veterinarian you are filing against is determined to be below the acceptable standard. This will make a settlement with the insurance provider easier to achieve and make a higher settlement amount more likely. A letter of demand can help you recover:
These damages are filed with evidence such as invoices and secondary veterinarian opinions. Your attorney can negotiate a settlement with the insurance provider, which covers your damages on your behalf.
In addition to the inability to recover non-economic damages in most cases, pet owners have additional legal hurdles. There are several defenses available to veterinarians when a civil claim is filed against them. These include:
It’s difficult to know for sure that you’re entrusting the care of your pet to the right person. There are some warning signs you can look for:
At The Animal Law Firm, we know animal law, and we can help you find the right avenue for legal recourse and compensation. Let us help you hold negligent veterinarians accountable by contacting The Animal Law Firm today.
We know how important your furry family member is to you. Whether they have no legs, two legs, or four or more legs, our priority is making sure you and your pet receive the best representation possible.