Whether your pet was injured due to negligence or it was an act of violence, you might be able to seek compensation for the market value of the animal, veterinary bills, punitive damages, the loss of companionship, and mental anguish. Individual circumstances, the facts surrounding the case, and the state you live in all play a role in the outcome of your case. But here are some questions to ask that will help you determine what to do if your pet is injured due to the actions of someone else.
What should you do immediately after the accident?
The very first thing to do is seek medical care for your pet. If you have to wait for help to arrive, take pictures of the animal and the scene, if possible. The veterinarian should document all findings, so you should ask for a copy of everything.
If your pet was killed due to the accident, you'll probably be reeling from different emotions. As difficult as it may seem, this is the time to collect as much information as you can that could help your case. Taking pictures, talking with witnesses, and getting contact information can prove helpful. Lastly, make sure your vet performs a necropsy to determine the exact cause of death. This may serve as evidence in your case.
Should you talk with the person that caused the injury?
If you can get a statement from the person that caused the accident, this can definitely help. If you're on good terms with them and they admit fault, they might be willing to pay for damages without you having to go to court. Obviously, this would be the best possible outcome.
But if they seem volatile, or you're having trouble keeping your anger in check, don't confront them as it could exacerbate the situation and make things worse. In this situation, your best course of action is to talk with an attorney about filing a lawsuit.
How much can you get?
The amount of compensation you're entitled to depends on a number of variables, one of which is the state in which the accident occurred. All states do have animal protection laws with regards to consequences of criminal acts. But when it comes to outlining how much an owner is entitled to receiving, laws have yet to be established.
What this means is that a decision on the final amount will most likely rest with the judge or jury that hears your case. That's why it's so important to have an attorney who can fight for your rights and who knows how to handle the intricacies of an animal injury. Your lawyer will look at previous cases and see how they relate to your situation in order to come up with an estimate as to what you're entitled to.
What can you sue for?
There are many different types of accidents that can injure an animal. But what you will actually sue for will fall under one or two of the following four umbrellas:
- Negligence: the injury happened as a result of carelessness, and the act was unintentional.
- Animal abuse: the injury was intentional, and the person meant to cause harm to your animal.
- Bailment: the injury occurred while your pet was under someone else's care such as a groomer, boarding facility, pet sitter, or veterinarian.
- Malpractice: your pet was injured due to veterinary malpractice.
It's important to note that these "umbrellas" are not necessary mutually exclusive. There can be some overlap, and you may be able to sue for both negligence and intentional acts of abuse, among other combinations.
Should you hire an attorney?
The courts deal with cases involving animal injuries via criminal and civil charges. In other words, you can report the incident to the police, and the person found responsible may face fines and jail time. But with civil cases, it's up to you to seek compensation.
Speaking with an attorney is in your best interest, but if you can't afford one, you can file a lawsuit in small claims court. These typically have a cap on how much you can seek, and they also don't allow victims to seek compensation for mental anguish or punitive damages. For more information, a firm such as Hoffman, Hamer & Associates, PLLC.