Running into cattle or other livestock when you are driving can cause serious damage to your car and injuries to you as well as to the passengers inside. If you have recently incurred damage or been injured in a car accident involving someone else's livestock, you may be wondering if the owner is liable for your injuries. There are several elements you need to consider:
1. Did the owner intend for their livestock to be in the road?
In many cases, in order to prove that the owner was liable, you have to prove that he or she intended for the livestock to be in the road. The letter of the law on this issue varies from place to place. In particular, in some areas, the owner must actually put his or her livestock in the road, in order to show intent and be held responsible for the crash. In other cases, failure to mend fences can constitute negligence on the owner's part.
2. Does your state have fence in or fence out laws?
The laws regarding fences in your area are also extremely important when determining if the livestock owner is responsible. In most parts of the country, livestock owners are responsible for fencing in their cattle. This means that the burden to keep the livestock contained is on the owner. However, other states or rural parts of some states such as Colorado have fence out laws. This means that if people do not want cattle on their property, they need to fence them out, and it shifts the burden for well maintained fencing away from the livestock owner. As a result, it can be hard to hold these owners liable based on a broken fence.
3. Was someone driving the cattle where or when they are not legally allowed to?
In some cases, you don't need to focus on fencing issues. Rather, you can focus on the actions of the person driving the livestock. In many rural areas, livestock owners commonly drive their cattle to new pastures along roads, but there are laws about which roads owners can use and when they can use them. For example, in Utah, you are not legally allowed to drive cattle along highways around sunrise or sunset. If the owner was taking illegal actions when you hit the livestock, you may be able to hold him or her liable for your injuries, damages or expenses.
4. Was the accident caused by a repeated problem?
In some cases, when trying to prove negligence, lawyers will argue that the issue was repeatedly a problem. For example, imagine you are trying to hold someone liable for the damages that occurred when you hit their bull with your car, and because you live in a fence-in state, your lawyer is arguing that broken fences constitute negligence. In turn, their attorney argues that the owner was not aware that the fence was in a state of disrepair. However, your attorney can counter that argument by arguing that this was a repeated issue. To illustrate, they may argue that the livestock were commonly on that section of the road and that the owner has been warned about his or her fencing issues in the past.
5. Were you following all of the laws?
If the owner is judged to be liable for the damage that occurred to your car, his or her lawyer may try to argue that you shared some of the liability. To prove this, these lawyers will typically argue that you were breaking another rule of the road. For example, if you were driving while distracted or speeding, they may argue that your role increased the amount of damage.
Want to learn more about the potential merits of your case? Contact a car accident attorney at a firm like Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC today. They can help you assess your case and determine if the owner may be liable for damages, injuries, and pain and suffering.