The practice liability audit is intended to cover the liability risks of veterinary practices, including issues about business
entity, landlord liability risks and many of the business and practice operation liability exposures that go on every day
when a practice is open for business. Ownership risks can be decreased by the proper entity, whether proprietorship, partnership,
corporation or limited liability company. Other business risks should be reduced by insurance coverage, proper DEA procedures
and the procedure requirement for proper client authorization and/or waiver forms.
From the business operations point of view, there is liability exposure for personal injury (including slip and fall) and
for malpractice. With client injuries, there are defenses regarding whether or not the client assumed any of the risk. To
limit malpractice, the client needs to give written authorization for veterinary work. Informed consent requires that the
client receive information before consenting. Hospitalization and/or boarding are related to bailment legal issues. Management
decisions must be made on whether or not the practice should file a mechanic or agister lien. Veterinary malpractice legally
requires a duty on the part of the veterinarian, a breach of that duty, followed by the breach being the proximate cause of
injury, resulting in damages.
Issues of liability occur with each step of a client/patient as they process through the hospital from check-in to discharge.
This process requires authorization forms, pet identification procedures, pet exams, doctor/patient relationships and hospitalization
forms. When the hospital receives authorization and checks in the patient, there is a bailment relationship in addition to
the contract relationship for medical treatment that must be complied with. Once the client authorization for treatment has
been granted, there are risks associated with changes in authorization based on changes in the medical or surgery findings,
laboratory findings, and/or the treatment or progress of care. When performing surgery, there are medical risks that must
be planned for, to prevent liability. Those of course include not only the proper identity of the pet, but also the gender
and the body part to be worked on and the possibility of unexpected findings in surgery.
Upon discharge, there are issues of risk associated with confidentiality of instructions to the owner and information about
prognosis, home care and payment. There are other risk issues associated with follow-up phone calls and the total resolve
of the case, whether having to do with zoonosis or with other follow-up care needed for a proper outcome, including whether
or not the case should be referred to an all night emergency clinic.
You should take home several ideas to limit or decrease your liability exposure from being in the veterinary practice business.