When a veterinary surgeon treats your animal, you expect them to provide treatment with a standard of skill and care which can reasonably be expected of a member of that profession.  In certain circumstances where you believe that your veterinary surgeon has not provided such a standard of care, you may suspect that he or she has been negligent.

First steps

Pursuing a claim through the courts can be costly and time consuming. Therefore it is always advisable, in the first instance, to explore whether you can resolve the matter in line with the veterinary surgery complaints’ policy.  Your complaint should detail the nature of the perceived negligence and the outcome you would like to achieve.  Depending on the surgery’s response, you may want (or need) to escalate your complaint to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).  If this does not provide you with a satisfactory outcome this is the point at which you may want to consider legal action.

Court action

In order to have a viable claim you need to be able to prove that the veterinary surgeon was negligent and that this negligence was the cause of substantial financial loss or extra expense.  However, before embarking on court action, you must consider whether or not your claim is of sufficiently high value to warrant the time and expense of pursuing it as, in many cases, it is often uneconomic to pursue a veterinary negligence claim.  For this reason, we will only consider taking on a case if the financial loss is greater than £10,000.

Proving negligence

In order to establish a claim for negligence, it is necessary for you to prove that the veterinary surgeon acted in such a way that no reasonable competent practitioner in the same field would have done; or that they failed to act in a way that a reasonably competent person in that field would have done.

Proving loss

It is not enough to just show negligence. You must also show that you have suffered a loss or expense as a direct result of the negligent act and / or omission and that the loss or expense would not otherwise have happened.  If you are unable to establish a loss, or extra expense, then there is nothing to compensate for and we will not be able to proceed with your claim.

Proving the claim

Unless you are a qualified veterinary surgeon, you are unlikely to know what constitutes ‘falling below the reasonable standards of care’. Therefore, you will need to obtain an independent expert opinion.  This should be an objective report, without bias to either side of the litigation. Therefore, if in their opinion you do not have a valid claim, they will state as much.  Their role is to assist the court with matters that fall within the expert’s expertise and they must abide by certain rules when giving evidence.  Because of the high level of expertise needed to deliver such objective evidence, it is consequently an expensive process.

Next steps

If you believe that you have a valid claim against your vet, it will be helpful if you could spend a little time explaining what you think went wrong and the circumstances of the case. To this end, please email us with answers to the following questions:

  • The name and address of your vet
  • What your vet was instructed to do;
  • When your vet was instructed;
  • Why you think your vet was negligent;
  • When you think your vet was negligent;
  • The value of the loss you think you have suffered as a result of the perceived negligence

Once we have assessed this information, we will be able to give you an idea of whether or not your claim is worth pursuing.