Animals are unpredictable and that, unfortunately, has led to many deadly car accidents. Of course, there is not much that can be done legally if a loved one is killed in a car accident with a wild creature. But you may be able to pursue legal action against an animal's owner if your loved one is killed in a collision with a domesticated creature, such as a dog, a cow or a horse. Be forewarned, however, that the laws on motor vehicle accidents involving domesticated animals can differ greatly from region to region. So it is possible that you may have a case in one state, but not another.
Accidents with Livestock
In some regions in the United States, livestock owners are not liable if a motorist is injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident involving, say, a horse or a cow that they own. Some areas of Texas, for example, have an "open range" rule, where it is the responsibility of the motorist to be alert for the presence of creatures on the road.
However, that is not true of the entire state. If a horse or cow is hit while standing on a federal or state highway, you might be able to pursue legal action on behalf of your deceased loved one if you can prove that an owner had knowledge that their animal could get out of its enclosure. This means, for example, that the owner knew that a fence was down or had just let the horse wander off. This can be difficult to prove, however, because the owner could claim that:
- The fence was down due to a storm.
- Thieves or vandals had broken his fence or gate.
- The animal involved in the incident was not his property.
Accidents Involving Pets
If your loved one was killed because a dog ran out in front of their car, which caused them to swerve and crash, the owner may or may not be liable depending the laws in your particular area and other circumstances. For example, if there is a leash law in your area, and the owner has a history of letting his pet roam, he could be liable for the death of your loved one. On the other hand, the owner may be able to prove that someone let the dog out without their knowledge.
Because cases involving domesticated creates can be very difficult to win, it is important to hire a lawyer--such as one from Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel--who is experienced in wrongful death suits. They will be able to subpoena witnesses who have, for example, seen this owner's livestock or pet on the road before.