Car Accidents Caused by Loose Livestock
Texas is a unique state in that on certain stretches of road, you may encounter your typical array of commuter vehicles like sedans and SUVs, but on other stretches, you may encounter a large truck hauling livestock.
There is a Texas statute on the books addressing livestock that escape their enclosures. Texas is an “Open Range” and “Fence Out” state. This is why county roads, farm-to-market (FM) roads, state and federal highways are prone to having livestock running free given the number of ranches in Texas. The most dangerous types of livestock you might encounter include cattle, horses and donkeys as they can cause serious personal injury if a car collides with them.
The Texas state legislature passed livestock laws as far back as 1876. These are laws that aim to limit the application of the free range rule in a county or some parts of the county. In these areas, ranch and farm owners are prevented from letting their animals venture freely onto the road. If the animals cause an accident, the owner of the livestock will be liable.
These laws usually state the kinds of animals to which they apply. It could be mules, donkeys, cows, horses, and so on. If you are not sure if a livestock law applies where you had an accident, you should get in touch with a Houston personal injury attorney who will investigate and give you proper legal guidance.
Federal and State Highways
If an animal roams freely on a federal or state highway, then any protections afforded under state law may be negated and liability can be established on the livestock owner. The law states that livestock owners are not permitted to “knowingly” let their animals roam freely in the road. State and federal roads in the US are closed range.
Under Texas law, this rule does not apply to any farm-to market roads. The liability in this instance rests on either the owner of the animal or the person in control of the animal at the time of the accident. In order to establish that the animal’s owner knowingly let the animal roam free on a state or federal highway, you have to prove that:
- There is evidence for open gates, open fence, or a general disregard for keeping a closed range;
- The responsible party used poor quality fencing that is unfit for ordinary use;
- There have been previous livestock escapes from the land and the owner did nothing afterwards.
Applying the Law to Your Case
In order to explain the law better, let’s use a hypothetical case. For instance, if a horse grazing on a nearby land wanders into the road and is hit by a car, causing serious injury to the occupant, liability will depend on:
- If the accident happened on a farm to market road without any stock laws, the owner of the horse will not be liable;
- If the accident happened on a state or federal highway, there could be liability if it can be proved that the horse owner knowingly let the horse roam free. This is regardless of whether or not there is a stock law;
- If the accident happened on a farm-to-market road where there is a local stock law, that law will determine the extent of the livestock owner’s liability.
Hurt in an Accident Involving Loose Livestock? Let a Houston Car Accident Attorney Assist
If you suffer a serious injury in an accident involving loose livestock roaming on a road of highway, schedule a time to speak to an experienced Houston car accident attorney. Contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.