Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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Protect & Defend columnist Dr. Ed Branam is veterinary and animal services program manager for Safehold Special Risk Inc. He serves on the American Veterinary Medical Association's Legislative Advisory Committee. do not admit overt guilt or wrong doing until after you have discussed the case with your insurance representa- tive or attorney. • Refer all questions from the client's legal representatives to your claims representative or attorney. • Do not agree to a settlement or infer an intent to settle when communicating with the client or the client's repre- sentative. Your claims person or attorney should handle negotiations. Agreeing to a financial settlement without the approval of your insur- ance company can invalidate your coverage, expose you to further litigation and trigger automatic reporting to the state licensing board. Many states require notification when a professional liability settlement over a stipulated amount is paid. • Do not speculate in the med- ical record about the cause of death. Only state the known facts. A necropsy should be performed — by a veterinary pathologist, if possible — when the cause is unknown. • Do not provide the client or the representative with the original medical record, radiographs or miscellaneous supporting documents. Do provide copies to the client if requested. Consult your attorney for guidance. License Defense Insurance Legal expenses incurred when a state licensing board files a com- plaint against a veterinarian are covered under this policy. The insur- ance might be part of the profes- sional liability policy or it might be a separately purchased endorsement. Several insurance companies offer up to $100,000 in annu- al coverage. The difference in price between a lower limit and $100,000 is minimal. I recommend the additional protection of a higher coverage limit, but consult an attorney if you are not sure what is best for you. As with civil litigation claims, make sure your insurer utilizes at- torneys who have experience with your state's veterinary licensing board. Also ask whether the compa- ny has access to expert consultants. When it comes to a state licensing board complaint: • Immediately report all board complaints to your insurer. • Do not respond to the board without legal assistance. • Ask your insurer for a list of attorneys in your state who specialize in veterinary licens- ing board complaints. Without appropriate profes- sional liability protection, your financial status, reputation and ability to practice veterinary med- icine could be at risk. So, do your homework and make sure you are adequately protected. A hammer clause states that if you refuse to agree to the settlement your insurance company has negotiated, you may become financially responsible for all or a significant portion of any additional legal expenses and judgments. Make sure your policy does not include a hammer clause.

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