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California Livestock Vehicle Crashes: Who is at Fault?

When most people think about California, they focus on the sunny beaches, movie stars and wine country. With the growth of tourism in California over the past few decades, the state has spent millions of dollars working on the state’s infrastructure of roads and highways to support the growing communities, business and tourist centers throughout the state. However, along with this growth, the State of California still has a thriving, vital rural industry that includes raising and breeding animals, farming and ranching. The problem exists when these two worlds collide — literally — on our roadways.

When a vehicle collides with a large, heavy animal such as a cow or horse, the resulting injuries can be serious and catastrophic for the driver and the other passengers in the car. In some cases, these types of collision can result in death for the occupants of the vehicle. When this happens, you need an experienced California personal injury attorney who has expertise in handling accidents involving animals because even though livestock owners have a duty to properly secure their animals, there is no presumption under California law that an owner is liable if one of his animals is in the roadway and causes an accident.

What Does California Law State about Collisions with Livestock?

There are two sections of the California Food and Agriculture Code that we can turn to in order to get an idea of the law governing an automobile collision with a farm animal in California. The first is Section 16902 that states in part that the owner or a person who has control or possession of livestock shall not negligently or willfully permit livestock to wander onto a public highway when the animal is not in control of the person in charge of the animal. However, the section goes on to state “IF” both sides of the highway are bounded by property that is separated from the road in question by a building, lawn, curb, sidewalk, hedge, wall or fence.

In addition to requiring that the highway in question be separated from the adjoining properties by a physical structure, you then have the legal hurdles of Section 16904. In this section, the law states that when you have a motor vehicle collision with livestock, that there is no presumption that the collision was caused by negligence on the part of the owner of the livestock or the person who was in possession of the livestock at the time of the accident.