"In more than half the cases I see, doctors are hit with secondary violations," Wyner says, "because they gave information
they weren't even asked for — perhaps about which staff members handle which tasks or other secondary or superficial issues.
"One may not even be aware there's a problem until an investigator shows up, asks for records, asks you to fill out some forms
and then says 'We'll let you know.' The doctor thinks everything's OK until he or she is hit with a second or third charge.
Vets need legal help to know how to focus on the specific complaint, in its proper context, and not go beyond that scope."
In one case Wyner recalls, a DVM answered questions, provided records, including the names of all employees and allowed the
employees to give statements. One gave wrong information that led to a secondary charge against the doctor, while the original
charge involving a pet death was dismissed.
While original complaints usually are filed by clients, secondary charges often stem from employees who may have been well-meaning,
or in a few cases disgruntled, Wyner says. "Others may come from whistle blowers."
The vast majority of complaints, Wyner says, involve adverse outcomes in pet care. But sometimes investigators will get enough
information to tack on charges involving record-keeping procedures, risk disclosure, communication problems or handling of
controlled substances. "The latter (controlled substances) is becoming a whole subset of issues that are getting more state-board
attention," she says.
Professional or career costs vary from state to state, Wyner says. "In some, if the complaint is minor and settled to everyone's
satisfaction, the record may be expunged. In others, the record isn't easily accessible except under terms of a sunshine law.
Still other states have full transparency — literally everything shows up on the record and license, warts and all.
"Also, in cases where vets hold multiple licenses, some states will notify another state of the action, while others are more
passive about it. In the latter instance, unless someone specifically asked, it wouldn't be known in the nearby state until
the doctor's license came up for renewal."
The economic costs
If the record is easily obtained or people make the effort to check a DVM's licensing background, an adverse state-board
outcome can result in a significant loss of business, Wyner says.
Out of pocket
Because an administrative-law case is much like a civil trial, "a lot of time is required to gather evidence and statements,
and that time is costly, Wyner explains.
Hearings may take place far from where a DVM practices, requiring much time off from work, Allen explains. "Hearings are
held at a location convenient for the board, not for the subject of the investigation." Relief vets are expensive, too, Allen
says. In addition, employees often are called to testify and usually expect to be paid by the employer for missed work and
Insurance or lack of it
"Insurance rates are going up across the board because of the growing number of claims," Wyner says, "but I haven't heard
of anyone having their insurance dropped because of a state-board action."
Veterinarians should know whether they have administrative-claims coverage, she says. "Some have it and don't use it because
they don't understand it, or are not even aware they have it. They should check with their carrier to know how to use it if
the occasion arises," Wyner says.