If I hit a dog with my car and didn’t stop, am I liable for vet costs or abandonment?

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If I hit a dog with my car and didn’t stop, am I liable for vet costs or abandonment?

Approximately 11 or 12 years ago I was driving and a dog walked out into the street. I could not stop fast enough (I’m sure I was going faster than the legal limit) and I hit the dog. I was a young girl at the time (17 or 18 years old). I didn’t see anyone around (doesn’t mean someone wasn’t) and the dog was not on a leash or anything. I don’t even remember if he had a collar on. I hesitated and drove off instead of stopping. I don’t even remember exactly which yard the dog came out of it’s been so long ago. The people could have moved by now. It’s wearing on my mind whether I should be held liable for vet costs or abandonment.

Asked on July 3, 2011 under Accident Law, Kentucky

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Here is the problem. You would need to research the laws on criminal law and civil law from 11 or 12 years ago. But here are a few basics for you. This was an accident in which you hit the dog, usually 12 years ago the laws were just changing about what dog owners could sue for. Pets are still considered chattel in most states, most likely in yours as well. The suit would have probably been for emotional distress by the family, veterinarian bills and possible reimbursement for the cost of the animal if purchased. It may have included prior vet bills, but it doesn't mean the person suing would have prevailed on those cost items.  Criminally, and depending on the statutes were written 12 years ago, if an officer found out you left the scene of an accident, it could be considered hit and run but again it would depend on if the statute was built to be so broad the hit could included animals or property. The statute of limitations has most likely run on all of these issues, civilly and criminally.


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