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Is It Possible To File A Veterinary Malpractice In Virginia?

Posted on 09/13/21 by admin in Medical Malpractice

Being a pet owner can be fun but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. One of them being finding an experienced veterinarian. However, even the greatest veterinarians can make mistakes or act carelessly. If this ever happens, the pet owner has the right to file a lawsuit for a veterinary malpractice in Virginia. However, these cases are usually rare but as many pets keep getting accepted as “family members”, these ‘animal cases’ are growing every year in Virginia & Washington, D.C.. But, how do veterinary malpractice cases work?

veterinary malpractice in virginia

What Is Considered A Veterinary Malpractice in Virginia?

The laws of a veterinary malpractice in Virginia are similar to the laws of a regular medical malpractice for a human being. A vet malpractice typically happens when a veterinarian harms a domesticated animal due to incompetence, medical mistakes, poor judgement, or just carelessness. 

Here are the four elements that would fall under veterinary malpractice:

  • The vet accepted full responsibility to treat the animal
  • The vet failed to follow professional standards of care
  • After the malpractice, the animal was either dead, injured, or sick
  • The pet owner suffered some harm or damages


Veterinarians Legal Responsibilities

Most of the time, vets do not have a legal duty to treat an animal. Once they do provide treatment, they could be held liable for malpractice. An example of these potential scenarios would be if the animal doctor fails to provide the proper amount of treatment needed for the animal.

On the other hand, if the pet owner drops their pet to the vet for treatment and never returns, the vet does not have the legal responsibility to feed or care for the animal, while staying at the premises. However, there’s always the ‘moral obligation’ that will depend on each animal doctor and animal health provider.

Some U.S. states have specific laws that protect vets from malpractice when they provide on-site, emergency care. In Virginia, the Chapter 38 of Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia covers specific insights about Veterinary Medicine, the way the law works for veterinary doctors, and the way veterinary malpractice in Virginia works.

How Much Is My Pet Case Worth?

Once you provide valuable evidence from the malpractice, you may be eligible to collect costs and expenses from any additional medical treatment that was needed after the incident. Nevertheless, if your pet died due to the carelessness of the animal doctor, the court may grant you the market or replacement value of the pet based on the breed, age, condition, and its training.

For most pet owners, their companionship from their beloved animals are worth more than what they would actually cost to purchase a similar breed. Very few U.S. states and territories take sentimental value into account. In Virginia and Washington, D.C. for example, pets are treated as property. 

In other circumstances, if the vet’s intentions of the malpractice was intentional and outrageous, the pet owner may recover from punitive damages and possibly other compensation from emotional distress. That’s why there are things to take into account to see how much your pet is worth:

  • Fair market value: The fair market value of a pet is the amount it would bring if it were sold on the open market. As mentioned before, the factors that go into calculating the value of the pet is based on breed, purchase price, health, and pedigree.
  • Replacement cost: On some occasions, courts might reward the pet owner what it would cost to replace their pet. The replacement cost may be higher than the market value of the pet because they take into account the accomplishments such as winning awards at dog shows.

medical malpractice

What Actions Fall Under Veterinary Malpractice In Virginia?

Sometimes, a veterinary malpractice can simply be negligence and carelessness. The standard in negligence lawsuits really means what another reasonable person would do in similar circumstances. Here are a couple of actions that are considered a veterinary malpractice in Virginia:

  • Misdiagnosing a pet’s illness or injury
  • Prescribing a wrong course of treatment
  • Stopping treatment while still needs healing and veterinarian’s attention
  • Leaving an animal on a heating pad for too long
  • Letting a pet escape through a door that was carelessly left open
  • Not giving food or water to the pet (if needed)


How To Prove Your Veterinary Malpractice Case?

In order to provide a good veterinary malpractice case, you will need to show what the professional standards of care are. This would mean that you might want to ask yourself, “What would a normal practitioner do in this similar situation?” According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinarians who are classified as certified specialists are held to a higher professional standard.

Additionally, it is always useful to have expert witnesses — such as another veterinarian — who can testify what the vet should have done. It is never enough proof to show that your pet was injured, sick, or died at the time of the malpractice. There must be evidence that the vet’s decisions caused the harm. This can be having expert testimony or any type of relevant documentation.

How Much Time Do I Have To Start My Pet Case?

Additionally, every state follows their own statute of limitations which is a deadline for when to start your claim. For instance, the statute of limitations for a malpractice in Maryland and in the District of Columbia is 3 years. Virginia, on the other hand, is 2 years.

The purpose of statute of limitations is to ensure lawsuits can be dealt within a reasonable and timely manner. In addition, requiring lawsuits to be filed sooner rather than later after the injury, prevents the facts surrounding the lawsuit from becoming unclear or discernable. This is why it is recommended to speak with a lawyer right about when these events occur. 

personal injury cases for animals

Talk To An Attorney Today About Your Veterinary Malpractice Case!

The most efficient way to see if your pet was involved in a malpractice is to consult with a lawyer. Most law firms offer a free consultation. Here at Malloy Law Offices, LLC, our consultations are free. An experienced attorney will guide through every step of the way in filing for your veterinary malpractice case in Virginia.