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Liability And Damages When Pets Are Injured Or Killed In An Accident


When people talk about pain and suffering and the emotional trauma associated with the death of a loved one, they are usually talking about human loved ones. But what about our animals, and our pets? Our animals are often as much a part of our family, and may be as loved as the human family members are. How does Tennessee personal injury law treat the death or injury to an animal family member?

Suing When the Animal is Injured

You cannot recover for the pain and suffering of an animal, or for the animal’s emotional trauma, in accidents when the animal is injured but does not pass away. However, if you were in an accident, and your pet was also injured, you could include your own trauma, sadness, anxiety, or depression, from the injury to your animal, as part of your overall damages that were caused by the accident.

Death of a Pet

When an animal dies in an accident, there used to be no way to recover for anything more than the actual market value of the animal. Unless you had some very exotic, expensive animal, or a show animal, the value of your beloved 12-year-old Labrador mix Rover wasn’t worth much on the open market, and the law never used to care about your emotional connection to Rover. It was just the value of Rover on the open market that you could win, like any other property — and nothing else (many states continue to treat pets in this way).

However, Tennessee law thankfully did change many years ago, and now will allow you to sue someone else who causes a pet’s death, up to $5,000 in non-economic damages.

Limits to Damage Awards

There is no limit to economic damages—for example, if your cat was in a car accident with you, and passed away after incurring $10,000 in medical bills, you can still recover the $10,000 in vet medical expenses. Those are economic damages.

Non-economic damages are the things you can’t put a price tag on, like your sadness, loss, or emotional heartache. Today, Tennessee allows you to recover up to $5,000 in non-economic damages for your pain and suffering related to the loss of your animal, on top of any economic damages.

You can get these damages no matter how your animal is injured, and you don’t have to be injured with the animal—in other words, if the neighbor’s dog attacks and kills your dog, but you are unharmed, you can still sue.

Animal Must be Controlled

There is one major exception—the animal must have been under your control when the accident happened. So, your animal must have been, for example, in your car, or on a leash, or penned in your yard, as opposed to just running loose on the street, for you to recover damages.

Were you, or your pet, or any family member, injured in an accident? Call the Knoxville personal injury lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today.



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