Livestock on the Loose: When Rogue Animals Cause Highway Crashes


People injured in highway crashes caused by livestock on the loose have a right to pursue compensation from owners who failed to secure their livestock on their property. Many states have statutes requiring livestock owners to keep their livestock confined, and some specify the type of fencing required. In Pennsylvania, for instance, farmers must erect a fence that prevents pigs from running at large if they live within one mile of a public road.

State statutes often provide exceptions when motor vehicle accidents are caused by animals that roam free due to circumstances beyond the owner’s control. In Washington, for instance, fencing exemptions exist for animals that escape because of “act of God” or “unforeseen events.” Further, some states have laws that immunize livestock owners from liability if their animal injures or kills a person in an area legally classified as “open range.”

Proving Liability

Moderate and high-speed accidents involving livestock turn on proof of negligence. Some factors considered in these cases include whether the owner had prior knowledge that the animal was at risk of escaping and whether fencing or other barriers existed to contain the animals. Other important considerations include weather conditions, time of day, or other factors that could have made it unreasonably dangerous to keep the animals inside.

When seeking compensation for auto accident injuries, the plaintiff must prove that the livestock owner breached his or her duty of reasonable care by failing to keep his or her animals confined. The plaintiff must also prove that the breach directly caused his or her injuries.

If an animal escapes due to some unavoidable hazards or “act of God,” the owner isn’t liable for accidents that occur. For example, an escaped horse spooked by lightning or thunder may cause fatal injuries to a driver or other vehicle occupants despite the owner’s best efforts to prevent it. A car accident lawyer can investigate the case to determine whether the livestock owner was liable for injuries caused by animals on the loose.