Veterinary practice involves a variety of legal issues. From structuring your business to protecting your veterinary license and DEA registration, our lawyers can assist you with all of the legal aspects of your practice.
For many veterinarians, the ultimate goal is to build their own practice. You worked hard for your license, you are passionate about what you do, and you want to do things your way on your schedule. While this is an admirable – and achievable – goal, it is important to acknowledge that there are certain legal challenges and risks involved.
Other veterinarians prefer to work in an established practice. All they want to do is take care of their animal patients, and they want to leave the “business” side of things to someone else. This too is a noble pursuit, and it comes with its own unique legal considerations as well.
Lawyers and Consultants Serving the Field of Veterinary Medicine
At Oberheiden, P.C., we represent veterinarians and veterinary practices in all aspects of legal compliance, professional license defense, and business and contractual matters. Our lawyers and consultants have centuries of combined experience in these areas, with particular emphasis on matters involving Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) compliance, billing and coding compliance, administrative board hearings, and civil and criminal litigation. If you are thinking about opening a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, we can help you take all of the necessary legal steps to do so. If you are facing disciplinary action or a veterinary malpractice claim, we can help you with this as well. Regardless of your legal needs, we have the knowledge and skill to assist you, and we encourage you to call us at (214) 692-2171 for a complimentary initial consultation.
Our Services for Veterinarians, Veterinary Clinics, and Animal Hospitals
We offer full-service legal representation and consulting services to veterinarians, veterinary clinics, and animal hospitals across the country. This includes (but is not limited to) providing advice and representation in the areas of:
Business Entity Formation and Governance
From personal liability exposure to federal tax treatment, there are various factors that must be considered when choosing the most-appropriate type of entity for your veterinary practice. Our attorneys can help you decide what type of entity to form and where to form it, and we can prepare the necessary organizational and governance documentation to provide the flexibility and protection you desire. If you will have business partners or investors, we can assist you with negotiating and drafting appropriate contract provisions regarding joint ownership and control issues as well.
Contract Drafting and Negotiation
Contracts with equipment suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, marketing agencies, and other third parties must be drafted with appropriate protections and remedies. If a third party’s conduct or product is responsible for harm to one of your animal patients or civil or criminal allegations against you or your practice, you need to be absolutely certain that the right party will ultimately be held responsible. Contracts with employees must include appropriate provisions as well, and veterinary clinics and animal hospitals must ensure that they comply with the federal employment tax withholding and remission requirements.
Professional Licensing and Disciplinary Matters
As a veterinarian, your professional license is the one thing that you absolutely cannot afford to lose. If you are facing a complaint from a pet or animal owner, if you are facing an administrative complaint, or if any other event has triggered disciplinary action that puts your license in jeopardy, you need to do everything possible to defend your right to practice. Our lawyers have extensive experience in the area of professional license defense, and we can represent you in all stages of pre-hearing defense, administrative hearings, and appeals.
Veterinary Facility Licensing and Regulatory Compliance
We represent clients with respect to veterinary facility licensing and regulatory compliance matters as well. Many states have laws and regulations that impose specific licensing and operational requirements for veterinary clinics and animal hospitals, and failure to obtain (or maintain) a necessary license or to comply with sanitation or animal housing requirements could subject your facility to closure and other penalties.
American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Accreditation Issues
In some states, meeting the standards for American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accreditation qualifies as de facto satisfaction of the relevant legal and regulatory requirements. There are other benefits to AAHA accreditation as well, and becoming accredited could have a major impact on your veterinary practice. Our lawyers and consultants can help you navigate the complex accreditation complex, and we can help you submit an appropriate response if the AAHA denies your application for accreditation.
Insurance Billing and Coding Issues
Billing and coding issues can lead to unnecessary and undesirable complications with the insurance companies. In order to ensure that your veterinary clinic or animal hospital is not accused of insurance fraud, you need to have an effective billing and coding compliance program in place. We have experience dealing with insurance payment issues of all kinds, and we can use this experience to help make sure that you bill appropriately and that your practice gets paid on time.
DEA Registration and Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Compliance
If you are subject to DEA registration, then you must submit a complete and accurate application under penalty of perjury, and you must consistently adhere to the conditions of registration. You must comply with all other applicable provisions of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as well, as failure to do so can trigger criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Veterinary Malpractice Defense
Allegations of veterinary malpractice can threaten your professional reputation, your license, and the financial viability of your practice. We have extensive experience in the area of malpractice defense, and we can work with you and your insurer to dispute any claims against you. While most veterinary malpractice claims are resolved short of trial, our lawyers are experienced and aggressive litigators who will go to court to protect your veterinary practice if necessary.
Audits and Investigations
Insurance audits, DEA investigations, and other unwanted inquiries can expose your veterinary clinic or animal hospital to substantial financial liability and other penalties. We routinely represent veterinarians and other clients in audits and investigations, and we can utilize our past experience to efficiently develop and execute a defense strategy focused on achieving a positive outcome as quickly as possible. As with all matters, we custom-tailor our defense strategies to the unique facts and circumstances at hand, and we work closely with our clients to ensure that we have all of the information we need to effectively dispute the allegations against them.
Criminal Defense for Allegations of Fraud, Animal Welfare Violations, Drug Offenses, and Other Crimes
Allegations of fraud, animal welfare violations, drug crimes, and other criminal offenses can have devastating consequences. However, in many cases it is also possible to overcome these allegations without formal charges being filed. Whether we have the opportunity to protect you against being charged or we need to focus our efforts on preventing a guilty verdict at trial, we will use our experience in federal criminal cases to preserve your finances, your freedom, and your ability to practice veterinary medicine.
National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Disputes
The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a repository for reports filed against veterinarians and other medical practitioners. The NPDB is maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS); and, while it serves an important function, it also creates problems for practitioners who are subject to false, fraudulent, and misleading reports. If you have had a negative report filed with the NPDB, we can file a dispute on your behalf and seek to have your record with DHHS cleared.
FAQs: Veterinary Practice Compliance and Legal Defense
Q: If I am opening a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, do I need to register with the DEA?
It depends, many (but not all) medications used in veterinary practice are regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. If you will be stocking and administering these medications, then you will need to register with the DEA.
Q: What types of billing and coding mistakes are most common among veterinary practices?
The most-common billing and coding mistakes among veterinary practices are similar to those in human health care. These include submitting the wrong billing code, “upcoding” and “unbundling” services, billing for services not provided, and billing for medically-unnecessary services.
Q: Is AAHA accreditation mandatory for veterinary clinics and animal hospitals?
No, AAHA accreditation is optional for all types of veterinary facilities. However, as mentioned above, there are various benefits to accreditation, including the fact that pet and animal owners will often seek out AAHA-accredited facilities in their local areas. If you are interested in pursuing AAHA accreditation, we can help you, and we encourage you to contact us to discuss your veterinary practice’s needs.
Contact Us for More Information
For more information about our legal representation and consulting services for veterinarians and veterinary facilities, please contact us to schedule a complimentary initial consultation. To speak with a member of our firm in confidence, call us at (214) 692-2171 or tell us how we can help online today.