Understanding Your Professional Liability Coverage: A Case Study
Veterinary student A filed a professional liability claim to report an incident while on clinical rotations. The case involved a 10-year-old quarter horse mare that presented to the veterinary teaching hospital for evaluation and repair of a laceration on the right hind limb, with potential contamination of the lateral femoro-tibial joint.
Upon presentation, the mare was BAR and able to bear weight on the limb. Heart rate and respiratory rate were elevated, with a mildly elevated temperature. The patient was sedated with 5 mg Detomidine and 3 mg Butorphanol IV to facilitate examination and exploration of the wound. The student clipped and cleaned the wound under supervision of the resident. Exploration revealed possible joint fluid leakage into the wound. The resident (Dr. B) infused saline into the joint pouch to evaluate integrity, which yielded an increased amount of fluid draining from the wound. With confirmation of involvement of the joint space, the owner was consulted and elected surgical repair with lavage of the joint under general anesthesia.
Complete blood count and serum chemistry with electrolytes were submitted and showed mild elevation of Creatinie Kinase (CK). All other values were within normal limits. The mare was treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (Phenylbutazone) prior to surgery as well as intravenous antibiotics (Gentocin and Potassium Penicillin). Induction utilizing Xylazine followed by Ketamine was completed and the mare was transferred to the surgical suite and placed on an adjustable, portable surgical table. Joint lavage using arthroscopy and sterile wound repair were completed. The patient was then transferred to recovery stall on the surgical table. During transport, student A became trapped between the surgical table carrying the patient and a wall within the recovery room. The student lost consciousness before the table could be removed.
Would student A's professional liability policy cover this incident?
The student was moved to safety from the recovery room, and the patient was transferred off of the surgical table and recovered using a rope-assisted recovery. The student was taken via ambulance to a local hospital where they were evaluated for potential back and abdominal injuries. Radiographs and Computed Tomography revealed no internal injuries. The student was diagnosed with a likely vasovagal event and discharged the same day.
The student submitted a claim to the professional liability carrier seeking reimbursement for the cost of medical care associated with the incident. Upon review, it was found that the case did not fit the criteria for professional liability. The standard of care for the student was met, and no injury to the patient was reported.
Professional liability coverage is intended to allow for compensation in the event of an injury to an animal or client during the veterinary incident. In this case, the injury took place during the veterinary incident but did not involve injury to the patient or client.
As a veterinary student, it is essential to understand your insurance coverage. Health insurance is intended to offset medical costs. Out of pocket costs associated with health insurance may include co-pays for specific types of care such as an emergency room visit, doctor’s visit, or similar. Additionally, a deductible may need to be met for emergency medical transport, imaging, laboratory testing, and other procedures before the insurance carrier will contribute to costs. Once the deductible has been met, the insured will often pay co-insurance. This is commonly a portion of the total allowable billed amount, commonly 20-30%.
It is essential to have coverage in place to respond in many different circumstances as a veterinary student. Health insurance, veterinary student professional liability insurance, and life insurance are all essential as you move through your educational experiences.