Kristina Bergsten

What Do You Do When the Vet Makes a Mistake?

Many pets are considered beloved members of the family and, as such, seeing a pet injured or losing a pet unexpectedly is heartbreaking. Animal medical care is of the utmost importance, so pet owners trust their veterinarian to provide safe and effective medical care. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Veterinary malpractice is any mistake committed by a veterinarian that causes a pet’s injury or death. This can be particularly difficult for a pet’s family because, if they choose to pursue legal action, they must navigate a veterinary malpractice claim while dealing with the significant emotions associated with an injured or deceased pet. Understanding the necessary steps to take if your veterinarian harms or kills your pet can make the process easier to manage.

How to Respond to Veterinary Malpractice

If the veterinarian you trusted to care for your pet instead causes them harm, you may want to take action to ensure other pet owners do not have the same experience. There are several methods of recourse that may be the appropriate response to veterinary malpractice:

  • Filing a complaint. Every state has a veterinary licensing board that determines whether veterinarians are fit to practice. If you feel that your veterinarian has caused harm to your pet, you can file a complaint with your state board. Once the complaint has been filed, the state board will determine if the vet in question is allowed to keep practicing.
  • Small claims court. If filing a complaint does not seem to be a strong enough response, you may also sue the veterinarian in small claims court. These cases typically do not require the involvement of a lawyer and are settled quickly.
  • Sue the veterinarian. If you feel that the actions of your veterinarian were particularly harmful, you may choose to pursue a full claim against them. These cases require lawyers, expert testimony, and strong evidence.

Your response to a mistake made by your veterinarian will depend on the impact it had on your pet. Regardless of your response, providing evidence that proves veterinary malpractice is essential to win your case, but this process can be difficult.

How to Prove Veterinary Malpractice

One of the most important aspects of a veterinary malpractice claim is proving that the malpractice happened. This can prove to be more difficult than typical medical malpractice claims because pets are unable to share their experience. Four things are necessary to prove veterinary malpractice:

  • Prove that the veterinarian accepted the responsibility to treat the animal.
  • Prove that the veterinarian failed to meet the necessary professional standards.
  • Prove that the negative impact on the pet was a direct result of the veterinarian’s actions.
  • Prove that the pet’s owner experienced some damages as a result.

If these four things can be definitively proven, then you are much more likely to win a veterinary malpractice claim. To prove these things, however, you will need strong evidence. The necessary evidence may differ depending on the results of the malpractice.

In the Event of Injury

If you believe that your pet has been injured as the result of veterinary malpractice, there are several steps you should take in response.

The first step is getting copies of your pet’s medical records as quickly as possible. If you notice something wrong with your pet, request copies of their medical records immediately. This ensures you can begin to collect evidence if necessary.

Once you have medical records in hand, seek out a second opinion from another veterinarian. Be upfront with the new veterinarian about the reason for your visit. This will ensure your pet receives any necessary medical treatment for their injuries. It also provides the new veterinarian with the opportunity to assess any problems caused by the previous vet.

Make sure you take pictures and/or videos of your pet’s condition when necessary. Keep the pictures and videos to have a before-and-after comparison of their condition. These will serve as evidence for a potential veterinary malpractice claim in the future.

If you believe you may have a veterinary malpractice claim once you have done all of these things, contact an animal attorney to help you navigate the process.

In the Event of Death

Losing a pet is always heartbreaking, but that loss is harder to face when the death could have been avoided. If you suspect your pet’s death was a result of negligence on the part of their vet, there are several things you should do.

First, demand that the veterinarian performs a necropsy. This is an examination of your pet after their death to determine what factors may have contributed. Your veterinarian may encourage you to cremate your pet, which will destroy any evidence of wrongdoing. If you suspect malpractice, ensure they perform a necropsy so you will know for sure.

Just like with an injury from malpractice, request your pet’s medical records immediately. This will not only provide you with essential evidence for a potential veterinary malpractice case, but it will prevent any alteration of the records.

Once these steps have been completed, contact an animal attorney if you wish to pursue a veterinary malpractice case.

Necessary Documentation

Having the proper evidence and paperwork in place is essential for veterinary malpractice. Medical records, necropsy reports, and any other documentation play a major role in proving malpractice.

The most essential piece of documentation, a certificate of merit, may also be the most difficult to acquire. This is a written statement from another veterinarian that your vet engaged in malpractice. Many veterinarians will not want to defame another vet, so being upfront when you seek a second opinion is essential.

Legal Representation from The Animal Law Firm

Pursuing a claim of veterinary malpractice can be difficult and time consuming. Employing legal experts to guide you through the process is essential. The Animal Law Firm has almost a decade of experience fighting for the underdog, and we can help you get justice for your pet.

If you believe your pet has suffered due to a mistake made by your veterinarian, contact us at The Animal Law Firm today.

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