28 April 2016

If your vet lets you down – veterinary negligence

When you register with a veterinary practice, your veterinary surgeon is contractually bound to perform their services with reasonable care and skill. The standard by which this is judged is that of a reasonably competent veterinary surgeon when acting under the same circumstances. Failure to perform their contractual and statutory implied duties to this standard can be professional negligence.

Professional negligence

Where there has been a failure by your vet while treating your horse, this must have resulted in harm, loss, injury and/or damage in order for you to seek compensation. Before you claim compensation, try to negotiate with your vet first. Where this doesn’t end positively, you may want to take legal action against them.

Seeking a professional negligence claim against your vet is a difficult claim to bring and will require expert evidence at the early stages. Often, it comes down to the personal and professional judgement of your vet about what was the most appropriate treatment in your horse’s case.

If you consider that you have a compensation claim against a vet, it will be helpful when you contact us, if you can answer the following questions:

1. Who your vet was;
2. What your vet was instructed to do;
3. When your vet was instructed;
4. Why you think your vet was negligent;
5. When you think your vet was negligent;
6. The value of the loss you think you have suffered as a result

It is important to remember that legal action for negligence must be started within three years of the negligence occurring, or of you becoming aware of it.

Professional misconduct

Vets are required to comply with the code of professional conduct of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Professional misconduct includes behaviour such as dishonesty, taking advantage of your age or inexperience, or acting against your instructions. The RCVS will not be able to compensate you for your loss. You may choose to negotiate further with your vet or seek compensation through legal proceedings after the misconduct proceedings have been finalised.

Where you are concerned that your vet is guilty of professional misconduct, report this immediately to the RCVS who will investigate.

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About the Author
Ali Goodwin, Partner
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Alison Goodwin is a Hereford solicitor, specialising in equine.

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