Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Veterinary Liability

I decided, after reading one of my AVMA Liability reports that I receive in the mail every few months, to share some of these stories with you. Then you can get a better idea of why we do what we do and how ridiculous some people can be. 

This is taken directly from the most recent report and is a "closed claim." Sometime they publish open claims as well. 

Dr. A was presented with a cat for an exam and vaccines. The owner assisted the technician with weighing the cat. When the cat stepped off the scale, it stepped in the wrong direction, and the owner reached out to redirect it. The cat reacted and bit and scratched the owner's hand.  A technician cleaned and wrapped the wound, and Dr. A advised the owner to seek medical attention.

The owner elected not to continue with the exam and left with the cat. The owner's hand became infected within 24 hours, and the infection was slow to respond to treatment. The owner called Dr. A and demanded reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Dr. A reported the claim and consented to settle the case. After a claim review, the PLIT-sponsored insurance carrier determined that it was below the standard of care to let the owner assist with handling the cat during the examination and contacted the owner to discuss a settlement.

The owner needed medical attention for six weeks, which included multiple specialist visits as well as several emergency room visits and home nursing care. The owner's health insurance carrier also pursued subrogation against Dr. A to recoup the medical expenses, because the owner was not at fault for the injury. Dr. A's insurance carrier prepared for a settlement offer that included lost wages and medical expenses. The owner accepted the settlement offer, and Dr. A's insurance carrier paid $22,760 to the owner. The owner's insurance carrier closed the malpractice and subrogation claims.

What can we learn from this?
1. Cat bites are always serious and anyone who receives one - even if it's NOT at your vet's office, should seek immediate medical attention. I've never advised anyone otherwise. If they chose not to, that's on them, as I have documented it in the record.
2. There is a very good reason why we try our best (and yes, there ARE cases where the owner holding does help) to limit restraint to staff (techs and docs). Unfortunately, you cannot assume someone will not sue you.  And remember, no matter what the owner says, its pretty clear that the fault will always be on the veterinarian in cases like this.  

1 comment: