When car accidents happen, finding fault is often difficult, but what can motorists do when an accident occurs because of an animal crossing the street? All types of animals, including pets, tend to wander if their owners allow it, which can lead to serious car accidents when drivers swerve to avoid hitting them. Those injured in such accidents may believe that they have no recourse to recover compensation but at The Jeffcoat Firm, our car accident lawyers can help them explore some options and provide them with guidance for building a viable lawsuit.
When Do Animals Cross the Road Most Often?
When pets like cats and dogs wander the neighborhood, they usually do so to track other animals in heat and to scavenge trash cans and other available food sources. Some dogs travel in pairs or even in packs and usually cross streets to knock over trash cans or chase and fence-fight with other neighborhood dogs. Dogs that return to their owners usually do so at dusk and tend to cross streets at this time.
Cats are crepuscular creatures and hunt or seek mates at dawn and dusk. Cat owners who allow their pets to wander off their property probably find that they return home after dawn to eat and rest. Feral cats usually keep the same hours and cross streets for a variety of reasons, including:
- Fighting with rival males
- Running from predators
- Traveling to known food and water sources
When animals wander and cross streets at dawn and dusk, when driving visibility is usually limited, motorists may swerve to avoid them and strike a tree, a fence or their neighbor’s parked car. When car accidents like this happen, our attorneys investigate the circumstances and assist our clients with any possible liability claims against pet owners who allow their animals to wander.
What Types of Car Accidents Occur Most Often With Animals?
When animals cross the road unexpectedly, motorists usually react instinctively to avoid striking them. This sudden change in direction can cause larger vehicles, such as SUVs, to overturn, which usually results in serious injuries for the driver.
Striking stationary objects
A sudden swerve may also cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, whether they manage to avoid striking the animal or not. This loss of control may cause drivers to hit several objects before finally coming to a stop. Motorists who run into large objects can suffer injuries as serious as those involved in major highway accidents.
Drivers who swerve to avoid animals in the road may temporarily lose control of the vehicle before guiding it back onto the road. This brief loss of control can cause a side-swipe, where the vehicle scrapes parked cars, and fences or knocks over mailboxes. Some side-swipe incidents can even cause vehicles to strike pedestrians walking nearby.
When animals dart into the road, a swerving driver may enter the oncoming lane and strike another car head-on. This type of accident can result in serious injuries and even death, especially if the vehicles strike while traveling at a high rate of speed.
Any of these types of accidents can cause serious injuries and our attorneys take the puzzle of litigation out of the hands of our clients and allow them time to heal from their injuries.
Are Pet Owners Liable for Their Animals’ Behavior?
Because animals are considered property from a legal standpoint, the owners of such property are liable for any damages they cause. For example, if a wandering dog attacks a person or other animals, the owner of that dog may find medical and vet bills arriving at the door. When pet owners allow their animals to wander the roads freely, our attorneys can build a case rooted in negligence when these animals cause serious crashes.
If the owner of the animal has homeowner’s insurance, then those injured may file a claim with the pet owner’s insurance company to recoup their losses. Pet owners owe a duty of care to others by restraining pets with gates and fences, as even friendly animals can startle and run in front of vehicles. Insurance caps may leave injured drivers with out-of-pocket expenses and the necessity to seek further compensation.
How Do Our Attorneys Build a Case for Animal-Car Accidents?
When clients bring us their cases that include injuries caused by swerving to avoid striking an animal, the first thing our attorneys do is review the circumstances and glean facts from a variety of sources to prove liability and/or negligence on behalf of the owner.
Confirm ownership of the animal
If the animal in question is injured or killed in the accident, authorities may verify its owner by a collar tag or a scannable pet chip. These chips, which vets inject under a pet’s skin, carry owner information including their address and phone number. These chips continue operating even after a pet’s death so that authorities can deliver the animal to a shelter or vet for scanning.
Contact the owner
Our attorneys can send letters to an animal’s owner that explain liability and how their possible negligence contributed to a serious accident. This takes the stress of correspondence out of clients’ hands so they can focus on healing.
As plaintiffs seeking damages for a car accident caused by someone’s animal, judges expect our attorneys to meet the burden of proof in court. They rely on evidence-based facts, not emotion, to make their judgments. Our attorneys use witness accounts, police and insurance reports and photos of the accident scene to build a solid case. Evidence like the length of a car’s skid marks can help verify that the driver was not speeding or driving carelessly when the animal darted into the road and there was no way to avoid the accident.
Injuries, mental anguish and suffering all require proof in court. The most effective way to meet the burden of proof for these claims is to provide documentation. Our attorneys can gather medical care invoices, medical insurance reports and photos of any visible injuries.
Assign value to a car-animal collision case
Our lawyers will review all related costs to a car-animal accident that results in any type of loss so they may assign value to it. They may include the cost of the injured party’s medical care, any type of future care they may need, lost wages, the ability to earn money in the future and punitive damages in the case of negligence.
When our attorneys seek damage for negligence, they can cite any possible past incidents that prove the owner of an animal allows it to wander. For example, if the owner of a large dog allows it out or does not provide a proper enclosure or fence and the dog escaped in the past and caused havoc in the neighborhood, this creates precedence that the owner acts negligently regarding the animal.
We Assist With Animal-Car Accidents
When vehicles and animals collide or an accident occurs because pets dart out into the road, drivers can suffer serious injuries that change their lives and result in thousands of dollars in medical bills. Our attorneys at The Jeffcoat Law Firm stand by to assist the injured and help them win compensation for their losses. Call today at 803-200-2000 for further assistance and information.