For many of us, pets are more than just companions – they’re part of the family. We may take them on vacation, to the store, and in frequent rides in the car. If your pet sustains serious injury in a car accident, care can be expensive. Naturally, you’ll want to do everything you can to save your pet, but most pet owners don’t carry health insurance for their animals. Do you have other legal options after a car accident? Can you compel someone else to cover your pet’s medical costs? Like most other legal matters, it depends on the nature of the accident.
Civil Suits for Negligence in California
California is an “at-fault” state when it comes to car accidents, which means victims of injury are free to sue for damages. Car accident lawsuits exists to compensate victims for economic and intangible losses resulting from someone else’s legal fault. If your dog, cat or any other domestic animal sustained injury or dies in a car accident, this certainly fits both criteria. Medical care for animals can cost thousands of dollars, and the emotional distress of losing a pet can be devastating. Collecting damages for pet injuries follows the same procedure as regular accident suits in California. You must provide sufficient evidence that:
- The other driver was at fault for the accident.
- You (or in this case, your pet) incurred injury as a result.
- These injuries led to damages (such as medical bills or lost wages from missed work).
Keep in mind, however, that California is a comparative negligence state. This means that if you shared any fault for the accident, the courts may reduce your award by that percentage. For example, if you were 20% at fault for an accident, a $10,000 award will be reduced to $8,000.
In order for a court to accept comparative negligence in a California accident case, it must be proven that the defendant had a duty to commit or refrain from an act, the defendant was negligent in this duty, the breach of duty directly caused the injuries of the plaintiff, and that the defendant suffered real damages from the event.
What to do following a Car Accident with your animal?
If your pet incurred injury in a car accident, take the following actions:
#1. Seek Appropriate Medical or Veterinarian Care.
Obviously, your top priority is your pet’s well-being. Ask your vet to thoroughly document the examination and your pet’s injuries. This could prove invaluable to your case.
#2. Collect as Much Evidence as Possible.
If your pet needs emergency care, you might not have time to collect evidence. But, if you can, take a few pictures of the accident scene and your pet’s injuries. The staff at the veterinarian’s office might be able to take additional pictures, too.
#3. Get Contact Information from All Involved Parties.
If time permits, get the name and number of any witnesses to your accident. Names and phone numbers are enough; your attorney can get in touch with them later and ask them to make an official statement.
In the unfortunate event that your pet dies, you may be able to collect damages for wrongful death. Ask your veterinarian to complete an examination that determines a cause of death before burying or cremating your pet.
Caring for an injured pet can be time consuming and expensive. Luckily, there are legal remedies for pet owners who are victims of negligence. A personal injury attorney can help inform you about the process of filing a civil suit to collect damages.
Our Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers offer Free Consultations!
If you and/or your pet was injured due to negligence in a car wreck, contact the experienced team at Panish, Shea & Boyle, LLP about your case. Call our office in Los Angeles today! (310) 477-1700