Liability for Georgia Car Accidents Caused by Animals


June 30, 2014

Most drivers have confronted a stray cat or dog in the road and been forced to engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid hitting the animal. However, the 11 Alive Atlanta news recently reported on a Canadian woman convicted of criminal charges following her fatal decision to park in the road to rescue ducklings. She was convicted of criminal negligence causing fatalities for the deaths of a motorcyclist and his passenger daughter when the bike slammed into the woman's parked car. The media report of the story indicates that she was convicted of multiple charges, including a charge that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Canadian law is not the same as Georgia law, but this case poses challenging questions in terms of the principles of liability when an accident is caused by a motorist attempting to protect animals in the roadway. Whether we are talking about a dog or deer that wanders into the road, animals are unpredictable, so they can suddenly dart into the road with little warning. When a pet like a dog walks into traffic, the owner of the pet can be financially responsible for violating an applicable leash law or negligent handling of the dog.

Further, drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care when driving to avoid injuries to others. If a driver strikes another vehicle when swerving or braking to avoid hitting a dog or cat, the jury will be asked to determine if the driver's response was appropriate based on what a reasonable persons would have done under similar circumstances. If a driver is injured when slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting the dog, the trailing driver might be liable because drivers have a duty to allow enough following distance, so they can safely stop for traffic. However, there are many subtle facts that can impact who is liable in these situations.

When a driver is injured while swerving into the adjacent lane and sideswiping another vehicle, the swerving driver might be considered negligent for failing to check that it was safe to execute a lane change. Even if the dog darts into traffic, a jury might determine it was negligent to swerve rather than hit the dog. If occupants in the vehicle struck by the swerving driver are sideswiped and injured, they might have a claim for damages against both the swerving driver and the dog owner.

If a collision occurs that involves a wild animal, the situation is different in a couple of ways. First, there is no animal owner that will be liable, so the driver avoiding the animal will have to identify another party who might be liable for his or her injuries. This can be the other motorist (even if they are both at fault), a public entity or even the vehicle manufacturer if a product defect contributed to the accident. Another way the situation might be different is if the undomesticated animal is larger, such as a deer. While it might be reasonable to swerve to avoid a deer because of the potential force of impact, this same rationale might not be applicable for dog or cat.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Experence to Work For Your Case

The bottom line is that determining liability in cases involving collisions caused by animals in the road are very case specific, and a successful outcome will depend on your attorney's ability to persuasively argue the facts. If you or someone close to you has suffered injury in an Atlanta car crash, our Atlanta accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.