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Liability in a Car Accident Involving a Pet


In order to determine who is at-fault in an accident involving a pet, negligence must be established.

woman holding pet dog's paw

No one feels good about hitting a dog or cat with their car, especially if it is not your pet. If you are in a single-car accident with a dog, you might be wondering who is liable for your damages and if you bear any responsibility for the dog that you might have hurt or killed.

In Missouri, even if a pet is involved, car-accident law is guided by the doctrine of negligence. Therefore, whoever is found negligent (even in an accident between an animal and a car) is responsible for paying for any resulting damages and injuries.

How Is Negligence Determined?

Negligence is a legal term that determines the blame for an accident. Someone either should have taken action and failed to, resulting in an accident or they did something that directly led to an accident happening.

If a dog runs out in front of you, and you don’t have enough time to slam on your brakes, it is likely that you do not bear responsibility for the accident. If the animal was off their leash and ran out in front of your car, it is not likely that the driver of your car would be considered at-fault for the accident.

If You Aren’t at Fault, Then Who Is?

If you hit an animal that was not being controlled by its owner, technically, you can claim that the owner of the dog was negligent for not maintaining control of their dog. If the dog was allowed to roam free or got loose and somehow got into traffic, then the dog owner may be considered negligent.

If their actions of not controlling their dog are deemed as negligent, then they would be responsible for paying for their own dog’s injuries and any damage that was done to your car.

What Is Reasonable Care?

To prove that a dog owner was negligent in their care for their pet, you would have to show that they didn’t show reasonable care. That means that you would have to prove that they didn’t act as any reasonable person would have in order to keep their pet controlled and contained and that this lack of reasonable action led to your accident.

If you are in an accident with just your car and a pet, it is best to speak with a St. Louis car accident attorney. Not only do you want to ensure that your damages and injuries are addressed if the accident was substantial enough, but you also want to make sure that the dog or pet owner isn’t looking to hold you liable for the death or injury of their animal.

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