Driving around with your pet is sometimes necessary – trips to the vet, the dog park, or just around town require your pet to come along for the ride. Unfortunately, this puts your beloved friend at risk should you get into an accident. If an auto accident results in injury or death to your dog, cat, or any other domesticated animal, you may be able to sue the responsible party for damages. Contact an attorney for help with these complicated cases.
What Damages Are Available for Pet Injuries after an Auto Accident?
After a car accident that injures you pet, you have a right to bring a claim against the liable driver or other party like you would if you were the one with injuries. California courts allow plaintiffs to bring claims on behalf of their pets in certain situations – namely, accidents involving someone else’s negligence. If a drunk, distracted, or careless driver caused your crash and your pet’s harms, you may have a claim on the grounds of negligence. Bringing a claim might be the right move if you need to seek recovery for damages such as:
- Costs of your pet’s treatment. Veterinarian bills can escalate quickly, especially if your pet requires surgery or an extended stay during recovery. Keep a record of all your vet expenses relating to the accident as proof of your damages.
- Market value of your pet. If your pet passes away in the accident, the courts may order a reimbursement of the animal’s market value. This may not be much, but the owner of the pet may still be entitled to this compensation.
- Intangible losses. In the event of pet death, the most important form of damage recovery is in the intangible (or non-economic) losses you suffered, such as emotional suffering and mental anguish from losing your pet. The California courts may issue an award for the loss of a pet’s “companionship, society, love, and affection.”
You may also be eligible to receive punitive damages. If the other driver or responsible party was grossly negligent in causing your car accident, such as having a blood alcohol level twice the legal amount, the courts may award additional punitive damages to punish the defendant for the death or injury of your pet.
California’s Comparative Negligence Laws
If your pet was loose in your vehicle, the other party may be able to claim that you were partially at fault for the crash (for example, if your dog was obstructing your view of the road and caused you to fail to yield the right of way). In California, the courts abide by pure comparative negligence laws to assign fault and award compensation. These laws allow the courts to reduce a plaintiff’s award amount by the percentage of the plaintiff’s own negligence in causing the crash.
In the above example, the courts might assign you 20% fault, but the defendant 80% fault for running the stop sign while texting and driving. In this example, you would receive 80% of the compensation award. The defense could easily argue that you were at fault for driving around with your pet in your lap or loose in the cab of your vehicle. Competent attorneys in California can help you maximize compensation by minimizing your own percentage of fault for your pet’s injuries.
Our Experienced San Bernardino Car Accident Lawyers can help!
If you or your loved ones were injured in a motor vehicle accident, be sure to first seek medical attentions. Once you are cleared by medical professionals, don’t hesitate to seek legal council.
Contact the San Bernardino car accident attorney team at Estey & Bomberger, LLP for a free consultation today! (909) 882-2016