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When running a veterinary clinic, it’s important to prepare your business for the unique risks you face. You could be held liable in many situations, from unpredictable animals harming another person or pet to medical errors when providing care. To protect yourself from costly lawsuits or unexpected property damage, it’s a good idea to purchase a broad range of business insurance that can financially protect your business.
What insurance coverage do I need for my veterinary practice or animal hospital?
There are many types of insurance available, but these types of coverage are particularly important for veterinarians and animal hospitals to consider:
Professional liability insurance, also known as veterinarian malpractice insurance, is a critical coverage for veterinarians, providing financial protection from lawsuits claiming that you made mistakes in your professional work.
No matter how competent and highly trained your staff is, there’s always a chance that a veterinarian could incorrectly diagnose an animal’s disease or injury, make a mistake during surgery, or provide the wrong medication. Even if you were not negligent, you could still be sued by a client who believes you made an error.
As some animals are highly valuable, errors in care can have major financial consequences, and the associated lawsuits and settlements can be extremely expensive. In addition, pet owners may sue for mental anguish and to recover veterinary costs. If you are accused of negligence, professional liability insurance can step in to cover the costs.
It’s common for veterinarians working at an animal hospital or clinic to be required to purchase their own professional liability insurance, as the clinic’s insurance will likely not cover them.
- One of your veterinarians misdiagnoses a disease in a horse. Because the disease was not treated properly, it spreads to other horses and causes several deaths. The owner of the horses sues your business for negligence. The insurer would pay for the lawsuit and any resulting settlement.
Commercial property insurance will protect the value of your business property if it is destroyed or damaged, including buildings, medical equipment, inventory, furniture, and more. Veterinarians rely heavily on their offices and hospital facilities, and they also use a variety of specialized and valuable equipment, making commercial property insurance a key coverage.
Commercial property insurance can pay to replace or repair business property that is damaged by a covered peril. Covered perils commonly include windstorms, hail, fire, explosion, vandalism, theft, and water damage.
- Faulty refrigeration equipment causes a fire to break out in your veterinary clinic. Your commercial property policy will pay for repairs to the building and the cost of replacing any damaged equipment and furniture.
Veterinary practices require their facilities and specialized equipment to operate. If property damage occurs, forcing you to close your business location temporarily, it would be difficult to get up and running at another location.
Business interruption insurance—also called business income insurance—will reimburse your business for lost income and operating expenses if you must close your business due to property damage from a covered peril. Coverage can be added to your commercial property or business owner’s policy.
- Your veterinary business’s roof sustains major damage during a storm and you must stop seeing patients for a month while it is repaired. Business interruption insurance would cover your rent, wages for your workers, and lost income while you are unable to operate.
General liability insurance covers incidents of unintentional third-party bodily injury and property damage. If visitors to your practice slip and fall, are attacked by an animal, or otherwise injure themselves, you could be held liable. General liability insurance can step in to cover legal costs, medical expenses, and damages for these incidents.
General liability insurance also includes coverage for product liability. Since many veterinarians sell pet food, treats, medications, and other retail items, this coverage is necessary. If a pet or an owner were to suffer damage or injury due to products you’ve sold, your business could be sued.
- Bodily injury: While bringing a pet to your practice for a checkup, one of your clients slips on a wet floor and falls, fracturing his elbow. General liability insurance would cover his medical costs and any legal costs if the client sues.
- Product liability: Several customers purchase dog treats from your veterinarian’s office. The treats turn out to be contaminated, and the dogs fall ill. General liability insurance would pay for any resulting lawsuit and settlement.
As a veterinarian, pets are frequently left in your care for treatment, surgery, or boarding. This means that your business could be held liable if anything happens to a pet while at your facility. Although strict safety procedures and extensive staff training can greatly reduce the possibility of an animal coming into harm while in your custody, there’s always a chance that an accident may happen.
Bailee’s coverage, often called animal bailee insurance in the pet care industry, can step in to provide coverage if a pet is hurt, dies, or is lost while in your care, custody, or control.
- An animal being boarded at your veterinary facility escapes and disappears. Animal bailee insurance will pay for the costs of advertising and offering a reward for its recovery as well as any necessary medical treatment after it is found.
Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial and medical benefits for your employees or their dependents in the case of a work-related injury, illness, or death. Because of the nature of their work, veterinary employees have a high risk of injuries.
Even if employees are highly trained and adhere to safe animal handling techniques, animals may bite, scratch, or kick workers or spread communicable diseases. In addition, injuries can result from slips and falls, repetitive strain, heavy lifting, accidental cuts or punctures from sharp implements, and other hazards.
Workers’ comp will pay for medical expenses, lost income, and rehabilitation for injured workers, and it will provide death benefits and funds to cover funeral costs in the case of a work-related death. Most states legally require all companies with employees to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Regulations for workers’ comp benefits vary widely by state, so it’s important to make sure that your business is complying with local laws.
- An injured horse kicks one of your employees while she is rendering treatment. Your employee suffers broken ribs and requires medical attention. Workers’ compensation insurance would pay for her medical fees and a portion of her lost wages while she is unable to work.
Commercial crime insurance provides funds to reimburse you for losses caused by theft, robbery, fraud, forgery, burglary, and other crimes. Veterinary practices may have an inventory of valuable medications and equipment that could be targeted for theft by outside parties or by your own employees. There is a risk of theft by employees handling ordering and billing, as well.
Commercial crime insurance can give you financial protection if theft occurs and will cover crimes committed by your own employees as well as others.
- You discover that an employee was making fraudulent orders and pocketing the money. Commercial crime insurance would cover the loss.
- Qualifying veterinary practices may choose to purchase a business owner’s policy (BOP), which can be a cost-effective way to achieve a broad range of coverage. Designed for small and midsize businesses, a BOP combines general liability, property, business income, and extra expense coverage into a single package.
- Commercial auto insurance is necessary for companies that own or lease vehicles. It covers third-party bodily injury and property damage if the driver of the vehicle is at fault in an accident, as well as the value of the vehicle itself if it’s damaged by a collision or another peril. If veterinarians drive their own vehicles to perform services off-site, hired and non-owned auto insurance may be necessary.
- Cyber liability insurance protects your business from the financial consequences of cyberattacks, data breaches, and other cyber threats. Animal hospitals may store sensitive customer data such as credit card information, and if this data is breached, you may be held liable. Cyber liability insurance can provide the funds to defend your business in a lawsuit, as well as any expenses necessary to recover from a cyber event.
- Veterinarians often use specialized equipment in their work; if key equipment breaks down, it could significantly delay their ability to provide care. If your business is forced to close because equipment suffers a mechanical fault or other internal breakdown, equipment breakdown insurance can step in to provide funds to repair or replace damaged equipment and cover lost business income while the equipment is out of commission.
Pricing and Quotes
Pricing for business insurance will vary based on the type of insurance coverage and the risk profile of your business. Insurers consider factors such as:
- Business size
- Number of employees
- Claims history
Businesses with higher risks will have higher premiums than those deemed lower risk. For example, a veterinary practice with a history of frequent claims will face higher premiums. Premiums also rise as you increase the limits of insurance. Different insurance companies have different models for rating risks, so it is worth comparing pricing across different insurers.
In order to get an accurate estimate on pricing, it’s best to get a quote from a reputable insurance company. Below we’ve highlighted a few of our trusted partners who offer coverage for veterinarians:
|Provider||General Liability||Professional Liability||Business Owner's Policy|
The veterinary profession faces a number of potential risks, and it’s important to consider your business’s individual needs as you plan your insurance coverage. Business insurance can help your company cope with unexpected disasters, whether it’s an unforeseen incident that damages your animal hospital, an accidental injury that happens on your property, or a medical error that harms a pet. With appropriate coverage, you will be able to cope with the financial consequences of any unexpected disasters that may occur.