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Can I take legal action against an emergency vet clinic?

Asked by user in Washington.

I have a 6-year-old pitbull who got pregnant. She began trembling, panting, pacing, and was super fussy. We knew something was wrong so we took her to the emergency vet. They checked her out, gave her an ultrasound, and said that both her and the puppy looked healthy. We took our dog home and her behavior did not improve. We took her back to the emergency vet and they determined that the pup had no heartbeat. Do I have legal options regarding this?

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

I’m so sorry for your loss.

To prove that your veterinarian committed malpractice, you need to establish the following elements:

  • Your veterinarian failed to exercise the degree of care and skill expected of a reasonable veterinarian, and
  • The failure was the cause of your pet’s injury or death.

It’s impossible for me to know whether your veterinarian committed malpractice without more information.

It’s worth mentioning that lawyers (and jurors) aren’t expected to have medical backgrounds. As a result, plaintiffs typically must retain medical experts to provide testimony about whether the veterinarian acted unreasonably. In fact, the State of Washington requires that plaintiffs and defendants retain expert witnesses in most medical malpractice cases. The need for expert witnesses is one of the reasons why veterinary malpractice cases are expensive to litigate.

If you wish to discuss your case further with an attorney, you can reach out to one using our free online directory. If you think you qualify for free legal help, consider one of the following options:

  • Law school clinics. Most law schools have legal clinics. In these clinics, law students represent qualifying members of the local community for free under the supervision of licensed attorneys.
  • Legal Service Corporation (LSC). LSC is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for legal aid to low-income individuals. LSC provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid organizations in every state, including Washington LawHelp.
  • The Washington State Bar. The Washington State Bar has several referral lines (depending on where you’re located in the state) that can put you in touch with a lawyer who represents qualifying individuals for free.
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