The Business of Practice: Veterinary License Defense
With a rise in veterinary license defense claims, now is the time to review your coverages.
vet woman unhappy computer
Veterinarian license defense coverage can protect practitioners when claims are filed against their licenses to practice. | iStock

Veterinary license defense is a separate endorsement to a practitioner’s malpractice insurance (professional liability insurance), according to Cynthia MacKenzie, DVM, a Trust veterinarian with the AVMA PLIT. Veterinary license defense, when triggered by an event, will provide legal counsel to defend a veterinarian’s license. “This is not covered under the professional liability policy,” said Mackenzie.

Without veterinary license defence coverage, a veterinarian who receives a complaint from a licensing board is left up to finding his/her own attorney and pay all the legal fees, she stated.

Increase in License Defense Claims

The AVMA PLIT has seen an increase in veterinary license defense claims in recent years. MacKenzie said that is due to owner value that is placed on animals today due to the increased human/animal bond. Also, many licensing boards now allow online complain submissions against veterinarians. That makes it easier for an “angry/upset” owner to file a complaint against a practitioner’s license is only minutes.

“This can be a long process,” said MacKenzie. “These processes can take six months, a year, two years to get through the board process and get conclusion.”

According to the AVMA PLIT,  “Veterinary licensing boards are state regulatory agencies whose job is to protect the public. These agencies are obligated to investigate every complaint—including frivolous ones—and they may demand a veterinarian’s medical records, request an investigative interview, or even inspect a facility. Receiving notice of a board investigation can be stressful, but with VLD coverage, the process, can progress much more smoothly.”

An Equine Example

You can download an AVMA PLIT Professional Liability newsletter that focuses on Veterinary License Defense: Don’t Practice Without It!

In these types of scenarios, what is key is really good recordkeeping. Your records are not only there to document the patent care. But in today’s times, they are to defend your standard of care.

In the podcast, MacKenzie explains this scenario based on a true case outlined below and what the steps and outcome was. Check out the full newsletter here.

Dr. D Reported to Board after Euthanasia 

Dr. D was presented with a 12-year-old Warmblood mare for forelimb lameness. Bilateral forelimb laminitis was suspected after examination and radiographic imaging. Treatment was administered, including phenylbutazone, therapeutic shoes, diet change, and stall rest. Pain management and therapeutic support were modified over the next few months, but the lameness progressed. While the patient was receiving a hoof trim, a farrier found an abscess resulting in the client questioning Dr. D’s diagnosis of laminitis. During Dr. D’s next exam, they found signs of P3 sinking, purulent discharge from around the coronary band, and detachment of the hoof capsule. The client was informed of the catastrophic changes and elected to pursue a referral. The patient was ultimately euthanized.

A malpractice claim was filed against Dr. D, which was denied as their treatment was deemed appropriate. The client then filed a board complaint, alleging Dr. D misdiagnosed the mare. Dr. D notified their insurance carrier, who provided legal counsel. Upon meeting with the board, Dr. D’s legal counsel argued that the patient’s physical and diagnostic findings were consistent with a diagnosis of laminitis, and that abscesses are a common sequalae of laminitis. After review of the medical records, the board agreed with Dr. D and their counsel and dismissed the claim. Attorney’s fees paid by Dr. D’s insurance carrier totaled $1,500.

Review Coverages

MacKenzie said this is a good time as we come to the end of the year to review your coverages. She said, “Make sure you have these coverages in place. Look at the limits of your coverage. If you aren’t happy with them, increase them. Risk if a very personal thing. You just want to make sure it is in alignment with how you feel comfortable with risk and what allows you lay your head on the pillow at night knowing your assets are completely covered.”

MacKenzie said if you run into any issues, call the Trust. “We are always happy to talk to our insureds!”

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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