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Can You Sue if a Driver Hits Your Dog?

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A recent tragic accident led to multiple fatalities around the intersection of West Avenue H and 30th Street in Lancaster. The driver of a Toyota Avalon ran through a red light and struck a silver Jetta heading north on 30th Street West. All three occupants of the Jetta and the driver of the Toyota lost their lives in the collision. Additionally, an Australian cattle dog riding in the Jetta died at the scene. Authorities are investigating what caused the Toyota driver to miss the light and have yet to determine if alcohol or drugs were involved. The estate of the driver is likely exposed to significant liability as a result of the accident, especially if drugs or alcohol were involved.

While most people know intuitively that the family of the deceased can sue for wrongful death, the tragic accident also raises the question of whether there will be justice for the family dog. If your pet is injured or killed, do you have the right to sue? Read on for a discussion of how California law treats injuries to pets, and contact a seasoned Lancaster car accident lawyer if you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent driver in the Antelope Valley.

Can you sue a driver who hurt your dog?

In California, pets are treated as the personal property of their owners. California Vehicle Code Section 20002 requires that any driver who damages property, including by hitting a dog, must legally stop and survey the scene. The driver must take reasonable steps to inform the property owner and present their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and home address. If the driver cannot locate the owner, they should notify the California Highway Patrol or other local authorities about the accident. Failing to take these steps can land a driver with a misdemeanor punishable by fines, jail time, and driving limitations.

If the driver was indeed negligent, then the owner of the dog may be able to recover for damages. California, however, employs comparative negligence in personal injury cases. Comparative negligence means that the plaintiff’s recovery amount will be offset by their share of the fault in causing the accident. If, for example, the driver hit the dog because he or she was texting, but the dog was not on a leash in accordance with local law, then a judge or jury may find that the driver was 80% at fault while the dog owner was 20% at fault. The dog owner will be limited to 80% of the total damages recoverable in the lawsuit. California follows “pure comparative negligence,” meaning that even if the dog owner is 80% responsible for the accident, they can still sue for 20% of their damages. Other states follow a “modified” comparative negligence scheme under which a plaintiff cannot sue if he or she was equally at fault or more than 50% at fault for the accident, but California does not.

Get Serious Legal Help after a Lancaster Traffic Accident

If you have been hurt in an Antelope Valley drunk driving accident or other car crash, contact a skilled and dedicated Lancaster personal injury attorney about pursuing a claim for damages by calling the Kistler Law Firm at 661-206-6990 for a free consultation.

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