Dogs can be loving pets for their owners. They can also cause harm to those around them, particularly if an owner is careless and allows their dog to run around off-leash. An off-leash dog can attack people. It can also cause a car accident if it runs into the road.
The dog owner may be responsible for damages if their off-leash dog causes an accident. If you were injured in an accident caused by an off-leash dog, you might want to pursue a claim against the dog owner for the damages you incurred.
The attorneys at Weinberg Law Offices describe below your options if you’ve been in a car accident due to an off-leash dog. You may be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for property damage, lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
How Can I Hold the Dog Owner Responsible?
You must recognize who is responsible if a dog causes an accident and how you can file a claim against them. If a roaming dog causes you to sustain injuries, there are ways to hold the dog owner accountable. In California, you can file a negligence claim against the pet owner.
A person injured in a car crash caused by an off-leash dog typically turns to the legal theory of negligence to hold the dog owner responsible in a civil lawsuit.
The victim must prove the four elements of negligence against the owner to be successful in a claim. The four elements are:
- Duty of care,
- Breach of duty,
- Causation, and
Read on for more details on each element and how you may be able to prove negligence.
Duty of Care
First, you must prove that a duty of care existed between the dog owner and you. Every person owes the other the duty to not cause harm and abide by the laws.
For dog owners, the duty of care typically means the dog owner must act as a reasonably prudent dog owner. A reasonable dog owner would likely keep their dog under their control.
The person walking or otherwise supervising the dog also has to be competent enough to control the dog.
While there is no statewide leash mandate for dog owners in California, dog owners have a duty to follow the leash laws in their city or county government.
For example, there is a leash law in Los Angeles. Here, dog owners must leash their dogs if their pet is not on their property. Therefore, owners in Los Angeles owe everyone outside their property a duty to keep their dog on a leash and under control.
Breach of the Duty of Care
A breach of the duty of care occurs when a person fails to meet the appropriate standard of care. You must show that the dog owner did not act as a prudent dog owner would. In places with leash laws, like Los Angeles, you could prove that an owner breached their duty if the dog was off-leash in the street.
If you’re not someplace with a leash law, many factors come into play to determine whether the pet owner acted reasonably under the circumstances.
Some of these factors include the dog’s breed and whether the owner broke the law. The owner may, for example, be subject to California’s dangerous dog laws. This is where the owner knows that a dog has a dangerous tendency but still allows it to roam. Violating California’s dangerous dog laws is a crime.
The element of causation is also required to bring a successful negligence claim. Generally, you must demonstrate that if it weren’t for the breach by the other party, your injuries would not have occurred. In other words, you need to prove that the negligent actions of the dog owner caused your accident and injuries.
Consider this element in the context of a roaming dog and the resulting car accident. You’d have to prove that you would not have had to swerve, for example, if the dog had not been roaming off-leash. If not for the loose dog making you swerve, you would not have injuries.
Finally, you must prove that you experienced damages due to the accident. You must have some articulable harm to bring a claim. You cannot bring a successful negligence claim if you do not have any losses.
Damages could include the following:
- Medical expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Property damage, and
- Pain and suffering.
Speak with a personal injury attorney for help with calculating your losses.
What Should I Do When a Loose Dog Causes an Accident?
You will need to gather evidence to help build your claim. Below, we set forth the steps you can take after an accident involving a loose dog to help keep you safe and prove liability. All of these can help you create reliable sources of evidence.
Get Emergency Medical Care
If you have serious injuries, call 9-1-1 right away. You should seek medical treatment as quickly as possible after the accident. Your physician can help determine the severity of your injuries. Make sure to keep copies of any medical records.
Additionally, you should be cautious if you accidentally hit a loose dog with your car. Hitting a dog with a car in California and not stopping to help is illegal. Try to locate and contact the owner immediately. Otherwise, call the police for help or bring the dog to a vet.
Gather Information from the Owner
Collect information from the dog owner, such as their name and address, if possible. One piece of information you may need to gather is evidence of their homeowners insurance, if they have any. Depending on their policy, it may cover some of your expenses.
Speak to Witnesses
If there were any witnesses to the accident, get their names and phone numbers to contact them later. Their version of what transpired in the accident can bolster your claim.
If you do not need immediate emergency care, you should take photographs of your injuries. Ask someone to help you take pictures if you have severe injuries. Photos of the dog and a lack of a collar, if applicable, can be helpful. Additionally, take photographs of your car damage and the location of the accident.
Collect Video Evidence
Video evidence, such as footage from a surveillance camera, can aid you in proving your claim. You or a witness may also want to save any video evidence recorded on your phone. For instance, videos showing whether the owner restrained the dog can be helpful.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal can help you to record emotional damages that may be a part of your non-economic losses. The journal may serve as proof of emotional distress by documenting your symptoms and how the accident has affected you. A top-notch attorney at Weinberg Law Offices can aid you in estimating your non-economic damages.
How We Can Help You
We will enlist our network of high-quality medical providers who can treat you without advance payment. Contact our aggressive attorneys for help recovering fair compensation for your injuries today. Disclaimer: This content should not be construed as legal advice.