Claims Against Vets

In the same way that all professionals owe a duty of care, your vet must demonstrate the normal skill and judgment that would be expected of the average or reasonably competent vet.

The vet owes this duty of care to all patients and animal owners and sometimes to third parties where he or she fails to maintain the standards expected of a reasonably competent vet (taking all the circumstances into account), he or she may be liable to you in negligence.

As with many clinical pursuits, the vet may be called upon to exercise his judgment as to the best way to effect treatment, for instance. Unless that decision is one that no other reasonably competent vet would have made, then the vet will not be negligent. It is generally only when the vet acts in a way that no other similar professional would have acted that he would be considered negligent.

Examples of negligence

  • failure to properly diagnose an illness or injury;
  • makes a mistake in surgery causing severe injury or death;
  • gives the wrong advice or fails to advise where he should have done so
  • gives the wrong treatment or drug;
  • in the cases of horses, the vet fails to identify a problem that should have been identified during a pre-purchase examination (or five stage vetting);

Financial Loss

For a claim against a vet to succeed, you need to show that the negligent actions or inactions of the vet caused financial loss.

Types of financial losses

Under UK law, you cannot claim damages (i.e compensation) for the pain and suffering of an animal. You can only claim the financial losses that arise directly from the negligence.

Where the animal is valuable, so for instance a horse or breeding dog, or where the treatment is expensive, then the value of the claim can be large.

Claims we can help with...

Where we consider you have a good claim for at least £10,000, then we are likely to be able to act for you. We are likely to be able to recover the majority of your legal costs from the other side as well.

Claims we cannot help with...

Small Claims

But where the claim is worth less than £10,000, it will likely be allocated to the ‘Small Claims’ track of your county court and because it is a ‘small claim’, you will not be able to recover your costs (or only a very small part of them) from the other side even if you win. It is therefore not proportionate to instruct us to act in small claims as the legal costs you pay would likely be disproportionate to the claim value.

So we will usually only be able to help if your financial loss exceeds £10,000 but if it is, we may well be able to act on a no win no fee basis (under a CFA). Read more about Funding your Claim here.


There are time limits to bring a professional negligence claim. You have 6 years from the act of negligence or 3 years from the date of knowledge to start court proceedings for a claim for professional negligence. The test for ascertaining the date of knowledge is when a reasonable person ought to have realised that there was a risk that negligence had occurred. There is a long stop date of 15 years from the act of negligence after which a claim may not be brought regardless of the date of knowledge. If you do not bring your claim in time, then your claim will usually be lost forever.

Funding Your Claim

We offer a number of options to fund professional negligence claims including Conditional Fee Agreements and fixed fees.

See If You Can Claim Now

Simply call our specialist professional negligence solicitors on 0330 134 2582 or e-mail us at to discuss whether you have a claim against your vet.

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