Free roaming livestock that get in the path of a vehicle on the road can cause serious accidents and injuries. Loose livestock can be found on certain stretches of road in Texas. A collision with a cow or a horse may be more likely at night when lack of lighting on rural roads make livestock more difficult to see.
Texas is an open range and fence out state. Open range states reverse the duty to fence in livestock. They allow roaming of livestock in certain remote areas and require other landowners to fence off their land to keep livestock belonging to someone else off their property. With the number of ranches in Texas, state and federal highways, county roads, and farm to market roads may have livestock running free.
The legislature has passed livestock laws aimed at limiting free ranging of animals in a particular county or certain parts of a county. In these areas, ranchers and farmers are prohibited from letting their animals wander onto the road. If an animal causes an accident in these areas, the livestock owner can be held liable. These livestock laws may apply to specific animals, such as cows, horses, mules, or donkeys.
Visibility can be limited on rural roads, and drivers may not be prepared for livestock in their paths. Cows, horses, or other livestock in the road can cause several types of accidents, including:
- Collision with an animal: Occupants can be seriously injured when a vehicle strikes a large, heavy animal.
- Collision with a stationary object: A driver may swerve to avoid hitting an animal in the road and collide with a fixed object, such as a tree, fence, or telephone pole. This can cause catastrophic injuries when a vehicle is traveling at a high speed.
- Spin outs: If the vehicle hits a large animal at an angle, it can go into a spin and run off the road. This can lead to a dangerous rollover accident.
- Collision with another vehicle: A driver swerving to avoid a cow or horse can hit another vehicle in a deadly head-on collision.
Wrecks involving livestock can cause a range of serious injuries to vehicle drivers and passengers, including:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Bone fractures
- Neck and back injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Crush injuries
- Severe burns
- Spinal injuries
- Wrongful death
If a crash is caused by livestock roaming freely on a state or federal highway, the owner of the animal, or the party in control of the animal at the time of the crash, may be held liable. Under state law, livestock owners are prohibited from knowingly letting their animals roam freely in state and federal roads. To establish that the owner or other responsible party knowingly allowed the animal to roam on the highway, you must show:
- Evidence of an open fence, an open gate, or a general disregard for keeping livestock enclosed
- Fencing used by the livestock owner that was substandard and unfit for ordinary use
- Previous incidents of livestock escaping from the property after which the owner did nothing to correct the problem
If you have been injured in a collision caused by loose livestock, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages. Call The Lenahan Law Firm at (214) 295-1008 to speak with a Dallas car accident lawyer. After a free consultation, we can tell you if you have a case.