Livestock and Animals Collisions

Farming, ranching and animal breeding is still an important and vital industry in the State of California, but the rapid development of roads, highways, communities and business centers has created many dangerous and hazardous areas which can result in serious accidents and collisions between animals, such as cows and horses, and motor vehicles. Cows and horses are large animals often weighing as much, or more than, a small car and a collision with them can result in catastrophic injuries and even death to a vehicle’s occupants.

Animal and livestock owners have a duty to properly control their animals so they do not intrude onto highways. Owners also have a duty to securely, and adequately, fence their properties and confine their animals. Despite that duty cases involving livestock can be difficult because there is no presumption in California of the livestock owner’s liability simply because there is a motor vehicle collision caused by an animal.

California Food and Agriculture Code Sections concerning these issues include:

Section 16902. Permitting livestock on highway - A person that owns or controls the possession of any livestock shall not willfully or negligently permit any of the livestock to stray upon, or remain unaccompanied by a person in charge or control of the livestock upon, a public highway, if both sides of the highway are adjoined by property which is separated from the highway by a fence, wall, hedge, sidewalk, curb, lawn, or building.

Section 16904. Presumptions or inferences in actions for motor vehicle collisions with animals - In any civil action which is brought by the owner, driver, or occupant of a motor vehicle, or by their personal representatives or assignees, or by the owner of livestock, for damages which are caused by collision between any motor vehicle and any domestic animal on a highway, there is no presumption or inference that the collision was due to negligence on behalf of the owner or the person in possession of the animal.

For an interesting take on the history of cattle trespassing on highways and the customary way neighbors handled the problem in the past see Less Law Than Meets the Eye by Robert C. Ellickson.

It is of utmost importance that an attorney handling these types of cases has investigators, fencing experts and livestock behavior specialists available so that the evidence of liability and negligence can be quickly established.

The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith have successfully handled many animal and livestock collision cases.

If you would like to discuss your legal options concerning such a case, contact us online or call us at 916-921-6400 or toll-free at 800-404-5400 to set up a FREE consultation.

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