How can we collect for an accident caused by a cow if theowner of the cow doesn’t have the proper insurance coverage?

UPDATED: Jan 5, 2011

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How can we collect for an accident caused by a cow if theowner of the cow doesn’t have the proper insurance coverage?

My wife and daughter were coming back from a shopping trip at night and hit a black cow at around 9:00 p.m. on 12/28/10. The owner told the State Trooper that the cow did in fact belong to him. Now the farmer’s homeowner’s insurance agent is trying to say that his client’s insurance may not pay to fix our car. I am bi-polar by record and this is really putting me in a “tail spin”. The farmer’s agent told my wife that he was not aware that the farmer even had a herd or a country store. What to do?

Asked on January 5, 2011 under Accident Law, North Carolina


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

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If the insurance won't pay for the property damage to your car, you could sue the cow's owner for negligence.  Negligence is based on failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  In this case, a reasonable owner would have exercised due care by keeping the cow behind a fence or other enclosure to prevent foreseeable harm as occurred in the auto accident especially considering that the cow was black and the accident occurred at night.

Negligence requires you to prove duty, breach, actual cause and proximate cause.  The cow's owner owed a duty of due care as discussed above.  The owner breached the duty of due care by not keeping the cow behind an enclosure especially at night when it would have been difficult to see.   Actual cause means but for the owner's failure to keep the cow behind an enclosure, would the accident have occurred?  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 cow's owner of liability?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, proximate cause has been established.

You have now established a case for negligence against the cow's owner.  Your damages (the amount you are seeking to recover in your lawsuit) would be the cost of repairs to your car.

If your wife or daughter were injured in the accident, they would have personal injury claims which are separate from the property damage claim mentioned above.  When they complete their medical treatment, obtain their medical bills and medical reports.  The medical reports will document the nature and extent of their injuries and will be used to determine the amount of compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  Their personal injury claims would include medical bills, compensation for pain and suffering, and documentation of any wage loss.  If the insurance carrier is not cooperating as you mentioned, include their claims in the same lawsuit for negligence against the cow's owner mentioned above.

A lawsuit for negligence against the cow's owner will need to be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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