Can a vet charge us for the 2nd surgery if the 1st surgery didn’t take?

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Can a vet charge us for the 2nd surgery if the 1st surgery didn’t take?

I was in an accident in which our dog broke his leg. The other driver didn’t have insurance and thats another issue in itself. Anyway, we had to fix the break and pay $4500 for the metal plates and screws and the surgery for the dog. Well after that we took him to get follow up X-rays and then the doctor said that the bone graff basically was disappearing and that they wanted us to do another surgery and pay another $4000. We took him to another vet a few months later to see what they said and they couldn’t believe that the other vet expects us to pay. Is that legal? Is there something we can do?

Asked on February 26, 2019 under Malpractice Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It depends on why the first surgery didn't take. A vet (or a human doctor, for that matter) is not responsible for a surgery not working out if he/she performed the correct surgery (a recommended treatment) and performed it properly. The fact is that medicine is not an exact science--it's not like engineering or repairing a broken electrical line--and sometimes the vet/doctor does everything right but the procedure doesn't work. When that happens, there is no thing illegal or improper about charging for a follow-up procedure.
If the reason it didn't take was that it was performed badly or incorrectly, however, then you should not have to pay for a follow-up procedure. A vet (or any professional) cannot charge you for fixing their own mistake.
Unfortuantely, if they insist on charging you, to get the work done, you'd have to pay and then try to sue them for the money, and to sue them effectively you'd need testimony from another vet who examined your dog and could testify that the first procedure was done sloppily or wrong--and you'd have to pay that second vet for his time. (And if you don't have vet testimony about how and why the first procedure failed and putting the blame on the vet who did the work, you can't win the lawsuit, since you can't prove that vet's fault.)
There may not be a good, cost-effective way to not pay while getting your dog treated.


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