Veterinarian workers might be comfortable in their career and feel safe with the pets they encounter every day. However, a pet could attack a vet technician or veterinarian assistant without warning. If that dog is overly aggressive, the attack could be catastrophic.
While there is an assumption-of-risk when working alongside pets, that career choice does not always mean that a dog’s owner is free from liability if their pet attacks someone in their vet’s office. Instead, it comes down to particular circumstances, including the dog’s history, the owner’s history, and what prompted the attack.
The Basic Rules and How It Applies
In the past, courts have ruled that veterinarians and their technicians take the risk of doing their job and know the risks well. All vets know that even a gentle dog can bite when it is scared or hurt at the time of treatment. Therefore, there is a risk of an attack.
Veterinary assistants and those working with animals as part of their job take the same risk, and the same rule applies.
However, as with all legal precedents, there are exceptions.
When a Vet Technician or Assistant Can Hold an Owner Liable for Injuries
Some exceptions apply to the hard and fast assumption-of-the-risk rules. For example, if a dog is overly aggressive and poses the threat of attack, but the owner does not tell the vet’s office about the risk, he or she could be considered negligent.
The same goes for the veterinarian or the owner of the vet clinic. The owner of the clinic has the duty to train their employees properly and provide protocols for aggressive animals. Failure to do so could make the employer liable if an aggressive dog injures a vet technician. However, this situation would fall under workers’ compensation or a private lawsuit against the employer; the dog’s owner may not face any liability.
The Issue of Provocation
The biggest problem in these types of cases is a provocation. Provocation does not have to be cruel or even deliberate. For example, two vet technicians treating a dog and holding that dog down for treatment could provoke the dog into biting. After all, the dog is scared, and around people he or she does not know; therefore, the court would often find that was provocation enough for an attack.
If the owner of the dog can prove that such provocation existed, then it will be difficult for a vet technician to succeed with his or her claim against the owner.
Injured as a Vet Tech or Animal Worker? Talk to an Attorney
While most cases of dog attacks in animal hospitals are workers’ compensation related, there are instances where a case could qualify for a claim against the dog’s owner. Therefore, run your case by an experienced dog attack attorney to see what options are available to you.
Schedule a consultation today with a skilled personal injury attorney, like Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. You can reach him at 215-771-0430, toll-free at 1-800-465-8795, or office direct at 215-987-3550. You can also request a meeting online.