If your vet lets you down

5th March 2020

Veterinary negligence

If you believe that your horse has been misdiagnosed or incorrectly treated by your vet, you may have a claim against them for veterinary negligence.

In veterinary practice, negligence may arise where the vet owes a duty of care – the normal skill and judgement that would be expected of the average or reasonably competent vet – and that duty of care is breached.

A vet is expected to exercise a reasonable degree of care and skill in his or her practice, and owes a duty of care to all clients and patients.

How is a breach of duty of care identified?

When judging whether there has been a breach, several factors may be taken into account;

  • the standards of the profession at that time
  • more than one accepted approach to the clinical management
  • the vet’s level of expertise
  • whether the vet has kept pace with developments in the field; they are not necessarily expected to have the latest journal article on the topic, and the practice is not necessarily expected to have the latest equipment.


Contact our Dispute Resolution team now.


Finally, if a breach of duty is established, any loss or damage claimed must have been actually suffered, been caused by the breach of duty and have been reasonably foreseeable. Unfortunately, the civil courts recognise only financial loss, rather than sentimental loss. The outcome of surgery or treatment is not always certain, of course, and an unsuccessful outcome may not be the result of negligence.

Our equine team has a wealth of experience in veterinary negligence claims and can advise you in this area – as well as taking legal advice over a claim against your vet for negligence, you may also wish to pursue a complaint to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in relation to professional misconduct.

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