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Large Animals And Motorists: A Cocktail For Disaster

Car Accident

Many of us have heard stories, and seen pictures, of large animals like deer who have ended up on the grills and hoods of passing motorists. The damages caused when a car hits a deer or elk head-on are tremendous, often totaling the car and hurting the occupants inside.

If you know the type of damage a deer can do, just think about the possibilities when a large horse is involved.

Our law firm is handling a case right now where a small Chrysler, heading down a dark bayou highway, struck a large horse which was standing, facing traffic, in the middle of the driving lane. The impact threw the horse head-on into the front seat, ripping the top off the car and knocking the driver and front seat passenger unconscious. The two back seat passengers were injured, too.

In what can only be described as an amazing stroke of luck-if that word can even be used to describe a case like this-the car continued to travel with the driver unconscious for almost a mile on the narrow highway. The back seat passenger finally took control of the steering wheel and somehow managed to bring the vehicle to a stop.

Unfortunately, the owner of the horse had no insurance. The stable where the horse was kept was also uninsured-at least according to the insurance company, which produced a contract which allegedly rejected coverage for damages caused by animals.

The insurance company tried to have the case against it dismissed summarily, but the trial court denied this request and the company remains in the case. The owner of the horse and stable will both be subjected to financial liability if the insurance company escapes liability.

Under Louisiana law, the owners and keepers of large livestock have a duty to make sure their fences are secured and their gates locked to prevent these herd animals from escaping. Art. 2321 of the Louisiana Civil Code makes livestock owners answerable for damages caused by horses and cows which get out of their enclosures if the owners are negligent in keeping up their fences and gates. The owners can escape liability by showing that they exercised reasonable care in inspecting their fences and other properties to assure that the animals wouldn’t escape.

Our case has not yet been set for trial, but one thing is for sure: the personal injuries caused by this horse were horrendous, and the injured family was completely innocent.