Legal Blog

Large Animal Collisions

Attorney David I. Fuchs

Author

Attorney David I. Fuchs

Date

Jul. 17, 2014

Category

Car Accident Law

In a collision involving two cars and two drivers, it is usually easy to assess blame, hold one or both parties responsible, and seek restitution. But when a crash involves a driver and a large animal, the responsibility issues may be unclear, car accident lawyers in Fort Lauderdale report. Who is responsible for keeping large animals like horses and cows off the roads, and protecting drivers from potentially dangerous encounters on public roads? 

In Florida, animal owners, especially livestock owners and farmers, have a duty to keep their animals properly fenced and away from the roads. Although Florida may be seen as beach country, there are several hundred large animals such as cattle and horses throughout the state, sometimes existing right up next to drugstores, houses, and busy roads. In these cases, the owners of these animals could potentially be held liable for an accident caused by a cow, horse, or other animal in the road.

The state does not require that owners of livestock keep their animals in fences or enclosures. However, many animal owners and farmers do properly fence their animals, because the state’s laws hold the owners accountable, should an animal escape the fence or wander off onto a public road. If an accident occurs, the driver of the vehicle can sue for damages, particularly if he or she has suffered injuries as a result of the crash. 

A few landmark cases in Florida have demonstrated the level of responsibility an animal owner can expect to be held to in the state’s courts. In the 1968 case Hughes v. Landers, a man and his daughter were driving on a public road when their car collided with a horse. The daughter was killed as a result, and the man sued the horse’s owner for negligence in failing to keep his horse properly penned. The courts agreed, finding that the owner’s fence was in disrepair, and that the gate had no hinges, only two rotted ropes, one of which was not tied at the time. The horse was able to escape the enclosure quite easily and wreak havoc on the roads. 

In a similar case in 1975, Prevatt v. Carter, a motorcyclist was injured when he hit a black cow while riding his bike at night. He was able to prove that the owner of the cow had been negligent, and did nothing to secure his cattle, even though he knew that the cows had escaped more than once from their grazing area through the shoddy fence he had constructed. In this case, the repeated escapes helped to establish that the owner was responsible for the accident—he knew of the potential risk and still did not take steps to prevent an accident. 

Animal owners need to ensure that their animals do not pose a threat to drivers. If you have been involved in a collision with a large animal, especially one that is owned by a farm or personal owner, you may be able to sue the owner for damages, including restitution for any injuries you may have incurred. To discuss your case, contact a car accident attorney at David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyers, P.A. today.