If your pet is injured or killed due to the negligent act of someone else, you can bring a legal action to recover for veterinary bills and other damages. Ask your veterinarian to carefully document all findings from the examination and request copies of your pet’s treatment record so you have an accurate accounting of all costs associated with your pet’s care.
While you can recover for your pet’s injury or death, the laws vary from state to state, and may even vary by county. Most states don’t have a specific laws regarding the amount of recovery that can be afforded to a person whose animal has been wrongfully or negligently injured or killed. Therefore, your recovery can vary even from one judge to another.

How Much Can I Recover?

Often, pets mean so much to their owners and it would seem impossible to be compensated for their loss. Yet, generally, damages that may be recoverable include the following:

  • The “market value” of the animal, or the cost of replacing the animal. This is the most common type of compensation for your deceased animal.
  • Reimbursement for veterinary care so long as the animal received reasonable treatment. What’s deemed reasonable is evaluated based on the animal’s health before the injury and the type of injury inflicted.
  • The value of the animal to you as determined by a number of factors including the type of animal, the quality and length of your relationship, etc. This is not a common type of remedy, and may depend on the judge hearing your case.
  • Emotional distress based on your experience and emotional grief seeing your animal get injured or killed. This is difficult to recover and depends largely on the state where you reside.
  • Punitive damages if the perpetrator acted maliciously to maim or kill your animal.

Who is Liable for My Injured or Killed Pet?

As stated above, depending on the state where you reside, you may be able to recover damages for your injured or killed pet. Any person who acts intentionally to injure or kill your pet will likely be liable for the damages. An exception to this rule is if the person was simply protecting themselves from being attacked by your animal, or when a farmer shoots a dog to prevent the dog from killing their livestock.
If a person negligently or recklessly injures an animal, they can be liable for the resulting injury. For example, a driver who negligently runs a red light and hits a dog who is walking on leash can be held liable for the resulting injury.

What If You are Partially Liable?

If you are partially liable for your dog’s injury or death, then what you can recover depends on the state where the injury took place.
Some states follow a contributory negligence rule. In these states, if the owner’s negligence is found to have contributed in any way to the animal’s injuries, then they are denied from recovering anything. In states that follow a comparative negligence standard, the owner’s recovery is dependent on the percentage of negligence attributed to her.
Let’s say that an owner’s dog is walking off-leash in a park that has numerous signs denoting that all dogs must be on leash at all times. Suppose someone hits the dog while riding on their Segway in the park, breaking the hind legs of the dog. A court can find the owner 50% liable for not having the dog on leash and the Segway rider 50% responsible. If the state follows the contributory negligence standard, the owner cannot recover anything because they were deemed liable for the resulting injury as well. On the other hand, in a comparative negligence state, the dog owner can recover 50% of the damages that were attributed to the Segway rider, and cannot recover the remaining 50% attributed to themselves.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If your dog has been injured or killed, consider contacting a skilled personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you assess whether you are entitled to recover any damages for the injury or loss of your beloved pet.