Veterinarians are passionate about caring for animals, and running an effective business is a great way to assist with that goal. They invest time, energy and money to deliver the best possible care to their animal patients. However, owning a veterinary clinic can be demanding, and it’s a constant challenge for owners to deliver exceptional care while maintaining profitability.
These challenges are magnified when you consider that risks related to property damage, equipment breakdowns, animal behaviors, crime and cyber liability must also be addressed. The list below provides an overview of these risks and more—helping you identify potential blind spots in your risk management and insurance programs.
- Property exposures in veterinary clinics vary depending on the size and type of operation. Exposures can come from equipment failures, natural disasters, customers and employees. Fire damage is a particular concern due to factors such as the presence of flammable anesthetic gases, loose fur from grooming, a crematorium and its source of fuel.
- Due to visitors bringing in animals who may be nervous or in an altered mental state due to their condition, veterinarians face many general liability exposures. These include the chance that an animal may bite, scratch or attack visitors, or behave in a way that increases the risk of slips, trips and falls. Additionally, any electrically powered items in the waiting room (e.g., a coffee machine or television) may expose visitors to risks.
- Because of the sensitive nature of the job, professional liability is a significant exposure for veterinarians. Veterinarians could make errors in treatment, medication or during surgery, or may fail to detect or accurately diagnose a medical condition. The exposure is even greater at teaching clinics, as less experienced interns may be assisting during surgeries. Records must be kept and organized very well, with complete and accurate information for all treated animals, or else the exposure is increased for failing to be able to show record of a service or procedure.
- Depending on the services offered, a veterinarian may own or use a vehicle for running errands, picking up supplies or for performing off-site services on larger animals, creating automobile exposures in the process. The use of a vehicle can lead to potential accidents and major insurance claims. What’s more, if employees use their own vehicles for work, standard auto policies are often not enough.
- Continuity is critical in business, and there are few things more important than continuous revenue and cash flow, particularly for small or medium-sized businesses. A single brief business interruption can be costly for an organization and may even lead to serious reputation damage or long-term closures. Common interruptions for veterinarians can include natural disasters, fires, cyber security events and vandalism.
- Veterinarians often rely on a variety of different equipment to perform care (e.g., x-ray machines, microscopes, incubators, anesthetic machines, oxygen tanks and heart monitors), creating significant equipment breakdown exposures as a result. Moreover, veterinary clinics can experience business interruptions or even prolonged closures as a result of equipment breakdown. In certain cases, equipment may even start a fire or leak hazardous chemicals, causing property damage.
- Because of the diversity and number of animals cared for, veterinary clinics face significant animal-specific risks. If an animal in your care is injured, passes away or disappears, animal bailee coverage can help pay for the resulting expenses such as medical bills, advertising and reward costs for recovering a lost or stolen pet, and temporarily relocating animals.
- The veterinary industry may be a target for cyber criminals, as these businesses often store sensitive customer data (e.g., names, addresses and credit card information) in a computer or server. In addition, employees who are improperly trained on computer and data safety could put your organization at risk for ransomware, viruses, phishing scams and malware. Additionally, cyber exposures are increased if the organization offers guest Wi-Fi that is improperly secured.
- Crime can be a challenge for veterinarians, especially because their inventory of medications and medical supplies may be attractive to wrongdoers. To make matters worse, thieves can strike at any time, leaving owners to recoup any lost funds or equipment. In this day and age, thieves (including your employees) do not need direct access to cash to steal from you—merchandise, supplies and securities are all fair game. What’s more, the location of a veterinary clinic or hospital, as well as its hours of operation, can have a significant impact on its level of crime risk.
- Any time one of your employees is injured on the job, your organization could be subjected to expensive workers’ compensation claims. Common sources of on-the-job accidents for veterinarians include animal bites, scratches and strikes; slips, trips and falls; and musculoskeletal injuries caused by repetitive tasks, sprains and strains. Normal, everyday tasks related to administering medication to an animal or restraining pets can lead to accidents and, in turn, increased costs for your business.
For more information
While the proper risk management practices can reduce certain exposures, no system is 100 percent effective in ensuring an incident-free workplace. As a result, it’s all the more crucial to work with a qualified insurance advisor to not only assess your exposures, but secure the appropriate coverage as well. To learn more, contact Hill & Hamilton Insurance today and speak with one of our insurance advisors.