Dog Causes Car Accident Who is Liable in Ohio?

Post By Corey Heit

In Ohio, Who Is Liable When a Dog Running in the Street Causes a Crash With Injuries?

The owner of a dog (or cat) is liable for all serious injuries and property damage caused by the animal. The short legal explanation for this is that Ohio dog law amounts to property law. Just as the owner of a house can be held legally responsible for injuries that result from unsafe conditions at the home, the owner of a dog can be made to pay compensation to individuals who suffer harm from a pet that acts unsafely.

Consider two car accident scenarios. In the first, a driver crosses the center line of a busy street and collides head-on with another car. The crash happened because the at-fault driver’s dog decided to climb into their lap, and all the people in the other car needed surgery.

Yes, a strong argument can be made that the dog caused the wreck. It is also true, however, that the dog’s owner became distracted and swerved into oncoming traffic. The wreck would not have happened, and the other people would not have been hospitalized, if the driver had kept the pet at home or buckled into a travel harness.

Sorting out this second scenario can become a little more complicated, but the principle of the dog’s owner having liability holds. In this case, a dog gets through the fence around its yard and runs out into the street, causing a neighbor to crash rather than kill the pet.

Animal control laws and local ordinances related to keeping dogs penned or on leashes make the escaped dog’s owner responsible for the neighbor’s crash. Succeeding with a personal injury claim will, however, require the neighbor to show that they did not significantly contribute to causing the wreck by, for instance, speeding. A request to have medical bills and car repairs covered could be declined on a finding of majority fault by the driver, but filing an insurance claim or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner would be legally justified.

Laws that require dog owners to keep their pets under control also make it difficult-to-impossible to sue drivers who hit dogs that are running loose in the street. Even when a driver has technically destroyed a pet owner’s property, the owner was principally negligent in allowing the dog to wander into harm’s way.

The biggest problem with holding a dog’s owner liable for causing a crash and injuries is usually identifying the owner. It is common for a dog to run off after it nearly gets hit by a car. When the animal can be corralled, it may not be wearing tags or have an identity chip.

If the owner of a dog that caused a crash cannot be identified, the incident is treated a lot like a hit and run collision. People who suffer injuries in the wreck can file uninsured motorist claims with their own car insurance companies.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

Corey Heit takes all types of car and truck accident injury cases at his law offices in Westerville, OH. He has advised and represented crash victim in Columbus and across Franklin County, and he offers free consultations to all potential clients. To schedule an appointment, call (614) 898-5300 or complete this online contact form.

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