This article provides several key questions a pet owner must ask him or herself prior to initiating a veterinary malpractice lawsuit.
For the Owner - What to Do if You Suspect Malpractice
What to do if you think there is a possibility of veterinarian malpractice:
- Do not leave the animal with the veterinarian in question - retrieve it as soon as possible unless it would cause new risk of harm to the animal.
- Take a picture of the animal and any affected area on the body.
- Have the animal taken for examination by another veterinarian who will be willing to testify as to what was discovered and give a professional opinion about whether or not malpractice has occurred. If the animal died, you need to find someone qualified to determine the cause of death (autopsy).
- Ask the office of the offending veterinarian for a copy of all the records (including x-rays and test results) that relate to the visit or visits in question.
- Write down everything that you can remember about the events at issue, in particular, conversations with the veterinarians concerning what needed to be done, what was explained as the treatment options, what permission was given and who was witness to the events.
- If an animal important to you dies, do not underestimate the need to go though a grieving process and recognize that filing a lawsuit will not be a satisfactory substitute for grieving.
- Remember that because of the limited amount of damages available for harm to an animal, a lawsuit may not make economic sense. (The lawyer may have to charge more in fees than can be recovered, even if you win). It is also possible for an animal owner to seek an informal resolution of a dispute with a veterinarian or to file a lawsuit in small claims court without the cost of a lawyer.