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Elizabeth Prentice
Elizabeth Prentice, Attorney
Category: Personal Injury Law
Satisfied Customers: 174
Experience:  Experienced personal injury attorney. From slip and falls to auto accidents, I am here to help answer your questions.
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Hello: My husband was driving downtown last Thursday and about

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Hello: My husband was driving downtown last Thursday and about 7 houses down from us there is a home where they have been allowing their roughly 50 lb boxer run loose on a regular basis and the dog very suddenly decided to bolt across the street in front of his oncoming car to some children on the other side of the street about a second before my husband was there. He was going about 20 mph and stopped as suddenly as possible. He stopped in a second or two but the dog ran directly into our car. The dog was knocked about ten feet away and was unable to get up. When the dog hit it made a very loud noise and knocked the headlights into the car and broke the bracket, cracked the bumper, bent the metal on the hood. There were people outside that when they heard the noise suddenly looked up when they heard the noise. My husband got out of the car to check the dog and then went to the house and got the owner who was very drunk at the time. He asked the owner to get a blanket so the dog could be moved. He told the dog three times to do it and the guy was so drunk he was just kind of mumbling. He finally told one of his kids to go ask for a blanket. The kid wandered into the house and disappeared for about 10 minutes. She finally came back saying "Mom says we only have good blankets!" needless to say with no blanket to try to move the dog. The owner mumbled to a neighbor that he'd probably have the dog put down. Out of both frustration that the guy was drunk, not caring about the dog, not taking the suggestion my husband gave of where to take him for after hours veterinary care my husband finally left. He then called the police and asked them what to do and whether he should file a report. They said that they didn't come out for hitting a dog.. Our car is a 5000 lb older mercedes and sustained probably about $5,000 in damage. We were debating about what to do and whether to make a claim on insurance. In talking to our agent we were told that if we filed a claim, even though we haven't filed any in 30 years, our insurance rates would increase and my husband would also have a 1 point charged to his driving record as a result of the damages being over $1000. Tonight the owner of the dog and his wife came to our door saying they had to put the dog down due to his injuries and then tried to accuse my husband of driving 40 mph rather than the 20 mph he was driving. They wanted him to pay their vet bill. They tried to say they had three neighbors that would say that he was going 40 mph and also that their vet said that the dogs injuries looked as if he had been hit by someone going 40 mph. When the 50 lb dog ran into the car it made a loud noise. It would have caught everyone's attention then and they probably just noticed it right then. Even if he had started flooring the gas starting from the time he got out of the driveway he wouldn't have made it to 40 mph by the time he was 7 houses down. The guy also supported his claim saying there was no skid marks. But because my husband was not going that fast our position is that's why there were no skid marks. His car stopped right in front of the guys house. When they started lying about his speed and making accusations that way we told them that actually we had been advised that since they had been consistently letting their dog run loose they could be liable for our damages to our car. We had been thinking that would be cruel to have to do but when we heard how they were making things up we told them to go ahead and go to court and sue us and bring their witnesses. I'm wondering what we do at this point. Do we wait until they file charges against us in court? Do we get the damages repaired and try to rrecover damages through their homeowner's insurance? If so how do we do that? Don't really have any idea of what the next move is and who should do what. Any advice would be very appreciated.
I am an attorney and I would be happy to help you. Your story is heartbreaking and very sad for everyone involved Situations like this are unfortunate, but it is not your fault. First, you need to make the claim to your insurance company. This is because the accident occurred in the middle of the road, not on the dog owner's property (homeowner's insurance does not typically cover auto accidents or dogs). I realize your rate may go up slightly, but it will not go up as high as you think. Additionally, if you report the claim to your insurance carrier, they are later obligated to defend you if you are sued. The cost of merely retaining a defense attorney is typically $5,000 - $10,000, which the insurance company must pay (less your deductible of course). Therefore, it is important to file your claim with the insurance company! If you do not file the claim and do it promptly, they will not assist you if you are sued. Additionally, the insurance company has the right to sue the dog owner if they feel inclined to do so to reimburse the insurance company for the costs they will pay to repair your vehicle. That will be the insurance company's decision.

With regards XXXXX XXXXX poor dog who passed, pets are seen as personal property. The most a person can be sued after an accident involving a pet is the value of the pet and any veterinarian fees incurred. However, the pet owner must prove you were negligent. In CA, the pet owner will only recover under the‘pure' comparative negligence standard. That means that the plaintiff will only recover damages after his percentage of fault has been deducted. Example) The Vet fees were $5,000 and the judge found you 10% at fault, then you would only have to pay $500.00. Based on the facts you have provided, I feel it would be in your best interest to not pay the neighbors and make them take you to court since a reasonable juror or judge could find you were not 100% at fault and should not be responsible for the vet fees.

In conclusion, go forward with filing your insurance claim and attempt to avoid the neighbors as much as possible. i hope my answer has assisted you and that you will provide me a positive rating!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

In our town there is an ordinance that dogs are not to be allowed to run free. I called Animal Services to tell them what happened to ask them to do a welfare check on the dog because we were worried that they were going to do nothing for the dog. They told us that because the owner let the dog run free and has a history of doing this that he is responsible for the accident. Given that are they still able to sue us for the dog and vet bills?

That is great that you found out the local ordinance. Since that is the case you will have to use that as your defense. Unfortunately, anyone can sue anyone about anything. Something I like to tell my clients is that everyone at some point in their lives will be sued about something. It does not mean they will win. As I mentioned above, I believe you will be successful defending any law suit they will try to bring against you, since it was not your fault. Make sure to keep a note of who you called and at what time, in case you need to call them later on to be a witness. I hope my answer has assisted you and that you will provide me a positive rating!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

If we have to go to court and they have three neighbors who are saying they will say my husband was going 40 mph and a veterinary saying that the injuries appeared to be the results of a 40 mph accident how do we defend ourselves when that is a lie? It's their word against my husband's who says he was going 20 mph..

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It just seems rather unfair that a dog that is left to roam free that decides to bolt in front of your car forces you to at a minimum pay the insurance deductible and have the department of motor vehicles put a chargeable point on your record because the damages are over $1000. If we sued them in small claims court for the auto damages and they countersued for the vet bills and cost of the dog could we avoid the insurance altogether then? They're not likely to retain an attorney either as the retainer would be much higher than their vet bills and value of their dog.

If you are sued, you should immediately contact your insurance company to inform them, so that they can retain an attorney on your behalf. Your attorney will be able to defend you against any improper allegations. We attorneys are knowledgeable on the law and discovery. I recommend you not worry about the future, as the neighbors may not even file a law suit. Even if they did, their failure to tie their dog up supersedes how fast the car was going. It does not sound as if you have any reason to be concerned right now, since you are not at fault and no law suit has been filed.

If you choose to repair your car on your own and then sue them in small claims court for the damages and they counter-sue for the vet bills, you will not have the advantage of an attorney. As an attorney I can not advise someone to engage in legal action without the advice and assistance of counsel.

I hope my answers to your questions have helped ease your fears. Please remember to rate my answer so that I may receive credit. Good night!
Elizabeth Prentice and 4 other Personal Injury Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks very much for your help.

My pleasure!