Pennsylvania Veterinary Malpractice Attorney

Fighting for Veterinary Malpractice:
How to Prove Your Case

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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.

What Is the Definition of Veterinary Malpractice?

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:

  • Misdiagnosing: A vet may inaccurately diagnose a pet’s illness or condition despite evidence contradicting their diagnosis. This may lead to the animal’s injury, illness, or even death.
  • Failure to Treat or Diagnose: Stopping or deciding not to treat an animal’s illness because of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose can cause harm to your pet.
  • Failure to Communicate Risks: When a vet provides a pet owner with treatment recommendations, they should include a warning about the risks.
  • Incorrect Prescription: A veterinarian may prescribe the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, leading to the injury or death of the pet.
  • Surgical Errors: A pet may be injured or die during surgery due to errors, a lack of training, or a lack of skill.
  • Conducting Unnecessary Care and Procedures: Some veterinarians are not honest practitioners and will perform unnecessary care, tests, and even surgeries to increase the pet owner’s bill. This is a form of veterinarian malpractice.
  • Performing a Procedure Without Essential Training: This includes allowing staff who don’t have the necessary training to handle complex tasks.

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.

Understanding What Makes a Malpractice Case

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:

  1. The veterinarian had a duty of care toward the animal. This means that they accepted the responsibility to treat and provide care for the animal, which is the case if the vet was currently providing care.
  2. The veterinarian failed to provide an acceptable standard of duty of care when treating the animal. This is often determined based on how other veterinarians of the same skill level and professional training would have acted given the situation. A certain level of professional standard of care is expected among veterinarian professionals.
  3. This failure of care by the veterinarian is what caused the animal to become more ill or injured or resulted in the pet’s death.
  4. To gain compensation in court, it must also be proven that the pet owner suffered harm or damages because of the injury or illness.

How The Animal Law Firm Helps You

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.

What You Can Do If You Suspect Veterinary Malpractice

There are several steps you can take if you believe your pet has suffered from veterinary malpractice.

  • Retain Your Pet’s Records
    After every visit with a veterinarian, you should always ask for and retain a copy of your pet’s records. If you haven’t done so, request your pet’s records as soon as possible, especially if your pet appears to be injured or in pain. Keep the records somewhere safe. This allows you to have a reliable look at your pet’s health history.Some veterinarian offices will unfortunately make changes to a pet’s records, or they will conveniently lose them if they are aware that a claim is being filed. Having copies of the records prevents this.
  • Document Evidence
    Be sure to note down memories of conversations with your veterinarian, and take photographic and video evidence of your pet’s illness and injury. The more physical evidence of your pet’s condition, the better. To be successful, a claim must prove that the veterinarian didn’t do their job to a professional standard, leading to injury or death. Internal communications, communication between you and your veterinarian, your pet’s medical records, and photo documentation are all useful evidence for an animal attorney to use in a claim or complaint.
  • Get a Second Opinion
    Take your pet to another veterinarian to look at their illness and injury. This helps your animal’s health and strengthens your case. Bring your pet’s records, and explain your concerns to the new vet. Get records of the second vet’s findings and opinions.
  • Get a Necropsy
    In unfortunate cases, a pet dies during or after care from a veterinarian. If you suspect negligence or malpractice, it’s essential to have a necropsy performed prior to cremation. Without a necropsy, the cause of death will never be determined, and it will be impossible to hold the veterinarian liable for any negligence or carelessness. A necropsy provides the cause of death and gives stronger evidence for a claim. Be sure that a necropsy is performed by a different veterinarian than the one you suspect of malpractice.
  • Contact an Animal Rights Attorney
    Whether your pet is injured, or you have lost them, you need to get in contact with an animal defense attorney to determine your options for legal recourse. An attorney can determine if a civil claim or an official complaint would be more effective for your circumstances and help you file either.

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.

Can You Sue a Vet in Pennsylvania?

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.

Is It Worth Filing a Malpractice Claim Against a Veterinarian?

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:

  • The medical discovery and investigation process
  • Gathering and preparation of expert witnesses
  • Depositions prior to trial
  • Various hearings
  • Trial

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:

  • Medical expenses you suffered from your pet’s injury or death
  • The economic value of replacing your pet if it has died
  • Your lost income, in extreme cases, if you were frequently visiting the vet and missing work

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.

What Can You Do Besides File a Malpractice Claim?

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:

  • Fines
  • Disciplinary action
  • Suspension of their professional license

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:

  • A Veterinarian Negligence Claim: In some cases, the harm is not malpractice, but the office failed to care for your pet, and you can claim damages for negligence.
  • A Product Liability Claim: If your pet needed a medical device at any point in their treatment, and that was what led to the injury, a claim against the product manufacturer may be necessary. This is even more likely if the veterinarian and veterinary staff used and operated the medical device as instructed and to a professional standard.
  • A Letter of Demand: This is a claim with the veterinarian’s insurance company, which can allow you to recover monetary damages without a civil claim.

Filing a Letter of Demand

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:

  • Economic damages, usually medical costs
  • Out-of-pocket costs

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.

Veterinarian Legal Defenses

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:

  • Statute of Limitations
    Civil claims have a statute of limitations, or the amount of time a person has to file a claim. If a claim isn’t filed within that legal deadline, you will not be able to claim any compensation. A veterinary malpractice claim is considered an injury to personal property claim. In Pennsylvania, this has a statute of limitations of 2 years.Although some people may consider that to be plenty of time, it’s important to file sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that essential evidence can’t be found or is harder to substantiate.
  • Good Samaritan Laws
    Just like medical malpractice cases, veterinarians are protected in emergency situations. If a vet provides your pet with care outside of their office during an emergency situation, they can’t be held responsible under a malpractice claim for harm done to your pet in those extreme circumstances. Only if they were recklessly unsafe and grossly negligent can they be held liable in an emergency situation. Talk with an attorney to determine if your situation may allow a vet to be held liable for gross negligence.

How Do You Know If You Have a Bad Vet?

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:

  • You Aren’t Listened To: Your veterinarian should never push aside your concerns.
  • You Feel Uncomfortable: It’s important that you feel like you can trust a vet.
  • The Vet Doesn’t Work to Make Your Pet Comfortable: Although some animals are going to be nervous or uncomfortable at a veterinarian’s office, it’s important that a vet does their utmost to make them feel safe and comfortable.

Working With The Animal Law Firm for Your Veterinary Malpractice Claim

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.

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