Who pays for damage from an auto accident caused by a dog escaping from a yard and running into the street?

A dog got out of its yard and ran into the street last night. It struck the passenger side corner of my bumper. It caused damage to the bumper cover. The dog is fine. Who is responsible for the repairs to my car?

Asked on September 22, 2011 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The dog owner would be liable for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that in this case a reasonable dog owner would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to have a secure yard from which the dog could not escape) to prevent foreseeable harm.

In order to prove negligence, one would have to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care by making the yard secure to prevent the dog from escaping), actual cause, proximate cause and damages.  Actual cause means but for the dog escaping from the yard, would your car have been damaged?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening events which would relieve the dog owner of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit.  Your damages would be the cost of repairs to your car.

If the dog owner/homeowner has some insurance policy that would cover this, you may be able to settle the case with the insurance company.  If that is not applicable, then you will need to file your lawsuit for negligence against the dog owner prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.


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