We all know that a dog is a man’s (or, anyone’s really) best friend. So can a cat, fish, or bird, and the list goes on. We love our little pals, and it’s really heartbreaking if something bad happens to them.
It’s even worse when we suspect our pet’s suffering to be needless and caused by another person or their animal.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you may be wondering: can I sue someone who harms or kills my pet? The short answer is yes. Depending on your specific case, you may be able to receive compensation in a civil lawsuit against the responsible party.
In this blog, we’ll dive into who to contact and what you’ll need in order to get justice and compensation for your pet.
Which Type of Lawyer Do I Need to See?
If you would like to file a claim against someone who kills or harms your companion animal, seek out a lawyer experienced in:
- Animal law
- Personal injury
- Property damage (an animal is considered “property” under the law)
Any of these lawyers can guide you through your animal-related claims process.
This includes alerting you of deadlines and timeframes, and local laws that influence your situation. They’ll also assist to fill out your claim, and work towards getting you compensation for the situation.
What Compensation Can I Get?
When looking at compensation for the death or harm of a companion animal, it tends to vary state-by-state. As a general rule, here are the forms of compensation available in most states:
- The cost of treatment for an injured pet
- In the case of death, the “market value” cost to replace your pet
- Non-market value costs based on an animal’s special skills or qualities (e.g. breeding animals, service animals, etc.)
Two other forms of compensation with special notice include the sentimental value of the animal and the emotional distress caused to the owner.
The legality of both forms of compensation varies by state, but most states are starting to open up their compensation criteria beyond just economic value (e.g. Plotnik v. Miehaus in California). At the moment, Texas does not offer compensation on the grounds of sentimental or emotional harm.
How Long Do I Have to File a Court Action?
For all types of claims – excluding a claim against a government agency – you will almost always have at least one year from the date of harm to take action.
This extends to all states, and you really shouldn’t have a problem provided that you file a claim (with supporting evidence) within this one-year period.
Should I Press Charges Against Someone Who Kills or Harms My Pet?
While our common instinct may be to press charges and try to seek justice for our pets, know that pressing charges may not be the best financially smart option. Considering lawyer fees and court costs, you may lose more money than you recover.
If possible, work with a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio that works on contingency.
The key to understanding whether or not you should press charges is usually based on three factors:
- The value of your pet
- The amount of evidence you have
- The maximum compensation limits by state
The Value of Your Pet
It’s hard to think of your precious pet in terms of just numbers, but remember that the court tends to view pets as property. As such, it’s important to understand the “market value” of your pet that can be recovered in the case of death. Here are factors that influence the market value of your pet:
- Overall health
- Replacement cost (as seen on the current market)
Tip: Make sure to ask for your pet’s medical records, and have documents related to your pet on hand. You and your lawyer will need to provide the relevant documents to justify the value of your pet that appears on your claim.
The Amount of Evidence You Have
The same situation can be awarded a couple of hundred dollars to thousands of dollars based on the amount of evidence you have. If you have strong evidence that someone purposely or willingly neglected or harmed your pet, the court will likely compensate you for more.
The Maximum Compensation Limits by State
All states have a maximum limit in regards to pet-related compensation. If offered, this is separated into economic and non-economic values. This is a topic that a lawyer will likely inform you about when having your initial meeting.
If you would like to learn about the maximum compensation rules in your state, you can also visit your state’s official website.
In most cases, a lawyer will let you know if the case is worth taking on in terms of cost and reward.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer With LegalStream
More than anything, we want you to get justice and find closure. Compensation won’t reduce your suffering, but it can help you financially recover what has been lost. LegalStream hosts the largest personal injury lawyer directory in San Antonio and other states. We’re also completely free!