Monday, November 5, 2007
Help Me Howard: Cat Bite
There's a saying in journalism, "Dog bites man, no news. Man bites dog, news." But what about when your cat bites someone at the vet's office? That was news to one couple, especially after they were hit with an $11,000 bill for the bite to the vet tech, but do they have to pay? Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser sinks its teeth into this one.
WSVN -- Jessica Barecich: "We have two cats and then we have a 135-pound dog names Aketes."
It may be a dog-eat-dog world, but, in this house, a cat rules the roost.
Frank Barecich: "Freeway is the boss."
Jessica Barecich: "Our two and a half pound cat literally rules this entire house, she's the boss."
Freeway is Frank and Jessica's 10-year-old female cat. They took her in when a friend found her.
Jessica Barecich: "She was found on the street, and she's got kind of a free spirit, so Freeway was a good name for her, to start."
Jessica loves Freeway, free spirit and all.
And that attitude is why they always tell the vet's office to be careful when they are handling Freeway.
Jessica Barecich: "I always sort of warn, whenever I take my cat in, she's a little anxious, so I always encourage them to use precautions whenever they see the cat."
Two years ago, apparently, a vet tech didn't pay attention. Jessica found out when she got a phone call.
Jessica Barecich: "That Freeway bit someone that worked at the hospital, and I was very surprised."
Jessica went, picked up Freeway and forgot about it, until she got a letter in the mail from an insurance company.
Jessica Barecich: "And they had indicated that we were being sued for $11,550 because of a cat bite."
Apparently, that was the medical bill for treating the vet tech Freeway bit. Needless to say, Jessica was stunned.
Jessica Barecich: "I was terrified, someone suing you for $11,000 for taking your cat to the vet is shocking in itself."
She immediately called the vet's office they said, 'Don't blame us.'
Jessica Barecich: "The understanding is that it's not necessarily the vet that is suing us, it's the insurance company that covered the damages or injuries that the tech incurred."
Jessica and Frank have never seen any pictures of the wound that Freeway caused. They don't even know the circumstances, but they are certain they shouldn't have to pay for something a pet did while in the care of a vet's office.
Jessica Barecich: "If you are working at a vet, there is the potential to get bit or scratched or whatever, and it's just a part of the liability of working in that position."
But if your dog or cat bites an employee at the vet's office are you responsible? Let's ask the guy who has owned a few dogs in his life.
Howard Finkelstein: "It depends, if you take a dog into the vet, and they bite someone you could have to pay. However, if it's a cat, the law in Florida is different. If your cat bites someone, you do not have to pay a dime."
When we spoke to the insurance company in New York, it quickly became clear they were not familiar with Florida law. When we told them Jessica and Frank were not responsible for the cat bite under the law, they said they would confirm.
Jessica then got a call from the insurance company telling her they agreed with us. She is not liable, and they are no longer demanding her to pay the $11,000.
She is off the hook, and, if you own a pet here, there are ways to protect yourself if you have a biter.
Howard Finkelstein: "You can't stop taking your pet to the vet because they might bite. However, what you can do is not only warn them but you can put a muzzle on them or ask the vet to for a muzzle. If something then happens it will probably be the vet that has to pay."
Harmony has returned to Frank and Jessica's home.
Jessica Barecich: "We're very grateful to Help Me Howard and what they did and someone who could advocate for us and empower us to do what we needed to do to protect ourselves, so we're very grateful."
Patrick Fraser: "Now, if you warn the vet and do everything to prevent your dog from biting, they can still sue you, but a jury could rule the vet's office was negligent, and you are not at fault. By the way, in this case, the vet had insurance to cover his employee's medical bills. It was his insurance company that went after Jessica and Frank and, fortunately, they failed to get anything, and the little guys win again.
Vetting and venting and still getting victimized? Pay a visit to us. The cat won't get our tongue until we arrive at a perfect solution.
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