Can I Sue the Cow that Struck my Truck?

By |2018-06-06T07:10:42+00:00October 19th, 2017|Downtime|

A herd of black cows gets out of their fenced pasture on a starless night.  They wander onto the nearby highway you’re on.  You slow down and fortunately avoid all but one of them.  You’re okay, but your truck sustains $10,000 in damage.  The cow is dead.  Do you have any recourse against anyone for your damages?

Many accidents involving livestock and wild animals occur at night when drivers are unable to see them on the roadway. Drivers have no time to react and often strike at full-speed. The damage caused by collision with a large animal is likely to be substantial. But unlike a deer and other wild animals, motorists don’t expect a cow to be in the roadway; nor should it be on the roadway. A cow is livestock, owned by someone. Therefore, that farmer may be responsible for your damages.

It is important to immediately contact the police after an accident. A police report preserves the facts of the loss. The police department’s investigation may also document the name of the farmer, the farmer’s insurance carrier, and other responsible parties.  Some insurance carriers require a police report as proof of the accident.  Contacting the police also helps protect others from additional livestock in the roadway.

The liability of the farmer, handlers, and haulers can vary from state to state. These laws address regulations for proper fencing and gates, owners’ responsibilities, and duties of authorities (sheriff, deputies, officers and state highway patrol) to take control and impound livestock running free or straying. These laws protect the general public since wandering livestock create an endangerment to all drivers.

Laws regarding livestock vary from state to state. Insurance coverage also vary by state and may fall under Farm Coverage, Animal Business Coverage, or Renters insurance.

Immediately take pictures of the scene and damage, including the dead cow. If there are any witnesses to the accident, get their names and contact information. They may be vital to winning your case.

Once you have the farmer’s name and insurance company, set up a claim with that insurance company.  In order to be paid, it will be vital you prove the farmer knew or should have known that his livestock could have gotten out and didn’t take adequate measures to prevent the escape.  If previous complaints about the same farmer’s animals have been filed, forward these complaints to the claims adjuster.

In addition to the truck repairs, be sure to file a claim against the farmer’s insurance company for lost income from your business.  In most states, downtime losses are legitimate expenses that can be compensated. While it can be difficult to collect this money without assistance, Eckert & Associates, PA will help you each step of the way in calculating your lost income and out of pocket expenses and pursuing the adverse insurance company.

If the animal owner’s insurance company will not accept fault or pay to repair your equipment, consider filing a claim with your own insurance carrier.  Be aware – you are subject to any deductible elected on your policy.  For instance, you may have a $1,000.00 deductible which would be subtracted from your settlement amount. Your insurance company will hopefully then pursue reimbursement from the owner of the cow.  This is called subrogation. Your insurance company’s subrogation department may attempt to recover the costs they paid out on your behalf, along with your deductible.

Be sure to check with your own insurance carrier to verify whether your policy affords coverage for UIMPD (uninsured or underinsured property damage). The requirements for coverage may be elective, mandatory, or not an offered coverage in your state; so, you should check your policy as well.

The claims process can be complicated. The staff at Eckert & Associates, PA wants to lessen your stress and assist you throughout the claims process.  Please contact our office if you have any questions.

About the Author:

Kelsea Eckert
Kelsea is passionate about helping clients resolve their insurance and downtime claims. She is active in the trucking community and is frequently asked to speak with groups about insurance and downtime topics. Full Bio →