As life becomes more complicated, we look to our veterinarian to keep our beloved pets and livestock in good health and living. We expect that he/she/they will take as good of care of our animals as we do. Sometimes, that just does not happen.
A Veterinarian can commit malpractice when the vet’s actions are negligent. A veterinarian owes a duty to provide treatment to your animal with the ordinary and reasonable care of a doctor providing care to a patient. Obviously, a veterinarian must use different tools as the animal cannot directly say what is happening and causing the animal to feel ill. This is part of their doctoral training and part of their licensing requirements within the State of Indiana.
Damages for a veterinarian’s negligence are limited in the State of Indiana. Unfortunately, Indiana treats an animal as simple personal property like a car or truck instead of the family member or income producer that they truly are. In this author’s opinion, this is a change that needs to happen in the State of Indiana, but, so far, the Indiana legislature and Indiana Supreme Court has not seen the logic of this change thus far. So, when valuing damages for the loss of a pet due to a veterinarian’s negligence we look to the following costs:
- Replacement cost of the animal;
- Medical costs caused by the failure to act and resulting from their negligence;
- Lost wages caused by the need to seek additional treatment;
- Lost opportunity for breeding and/or sale of the animal (note this is a high standard that requires expert evidence to seek)
In rare cases, there may be an opportunity to seek damages for emotional distress. In order to do so, there must be something more than ordinary negligence and it must be shown that the veterinarian was grossly negligent or intentionally intended harm to the animals or its owners. If this standard can be met, a jury would determine the value of emotional distress damages.