This is a subject near and dear to just about everyone's heart — our pets and companion or service animals. Whether you have a highly-trained service animal or a household pet that you adopted for the joy and companionship that a devoted pet can bring, it can be heartbreaking to see them injured or killed as a result of another person's actions or negligence.
Are you able to receive compensation after the injury or death of a pet due to a car accident, deliberate action on the part of another individual, or other negligence?
Today, we'll take a look at the answer.
Recovering Medical Costs After a Car Accident
For a pet owner who packs their furry friend into the car for a visit to the park or the vet, a car accident can lead to serious injury, as pets are often not restrained within the vehicle.
If your pet is involved in a car accident, you might be dealing with lacerations, broken limbs, internal damage, or other injuries that require treatment by medical professionals.
Every pet owner knows how expensive medical treatment can be. This is multiplied in serious situations that may require surgery or time spent in an animal hospital. Whether or not you will be able to successfully file to receive compensation from the at-fault party in the vehicular collision will depend on several different factors.
Courts are often reluctant to award full compensation for extensive surgery in elderly pets - you won't be able to rely on receiving $10,000 in compensation for your elderly pet even if the surgeries and other treatment cost that much, as the judge might decide that their assumed remaining lifespan was very short.
That said, it is still worth the attempt to regain compensation for the treatment of your elderly dog or cat! Judges have awarded compensation for elderly pets or pets who required extensive and expensive medical treatments in order to recover — it's just not something you should assume is a given.
What About Injury in Other Circumstances?
If your family pet is injured as a result of another person's actions or negligence — attacked by another family pet that escaped its enclosure or was not leashed according to local municipal regulations, for example — you may attempt to recover compensation for funds spent on medical care for your pet.
Some pet owners attempt to recover compensation for emotional distress, but South Carolina law does not allow for a pet owner to recover for the owner's pain and suffering related to the pet's injury or death.
What About Pet Deaths Caused by Negligence?
There are certain cases in which death is caused not by direct actions but by negligent acts of third parties. Examples would be boarding facilities that forget to feed animals under their care or neglectful "pet sitters" who forget to care for the animal, with that negligence resulting in the pet's serious injury or death. Compensation is still limited to either the market value of the animal or for its "actual value to owner" excluding any fanciful or sentimental value.
The Difference Between Market Value vs. Actual Value
The market value is a mostly-fixed amount related to the costs of acquiring the pet. For instance, if you adopt a puppy from a local shelter, the costs of adopting, vaccinations, and pest-prevention meds may run up to $200, an amount that would constitute the 'market value' when you file for compensation. If a pedigreed dog performed in dog shows and won monetary awards, that could affect their perceived market value when deciding on compensation.
The "actual value to owner", on the other hand, is far less distinct. This incorporates value given to the emotional connection between the person and their pet ,the role that pet played in their lives and family, how long they had had the pet, and other circumstances. While some judges will not consider this in making their decision, some will, so it's important to maintain any and all records you have that would relate how long you've owned the animal and their position within your household.
Are Damages Awarded as Punishment?
Courts rarely order compensation in an attempt at direct "punishment". The money awarded to the owner of the injured or deceased pet is intended to compensate for economic losses, not as a direct punishment for the person responsible for the pet's injury.
However, there are situations where the actions that led to the injury or death of the pet were deliberate or outrageous, and extra compensation may be awarded in a civil lawsuit as "punitive damages".
Punitive damages are essentially a fine levied against the at-fault party, but rather than the fine going to government (as in the case of a fine for a traffic violation), the amount goes to the owner of the pet. Punitive damages would be added on to the overall amount the owner receives as compensation. Punitive damages will only be assessed if it becomes clear the injury or death was caused intentionally or recklessly.
My Dog Was Injured By Someone Else. What Now?
If your companion animal, guide dog, or household pet was injured or killed as a result of someone else's direct action or negligence, you may be able to file for compensation to help recover from your loss. Bluestein Attorneys is here to help. We would be happy to speak with you about your unique circumstances and help you decide on the next step. We have attorneys with experience working with dog bites, personal injury, vehicle collisions, and more. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time to request your FREE consultation.