Is there liability for animals running at large?

A fatality accident involving a horse running at-large could result in liability for the owner. According to reports, Robert Green of Westville was traveling southbound on Highway 59 when his motorcycle struck a horse in the center of the road. Under Oklahoma law, owners domestic animals, including horses and cows, can be liable when those animals escape and cause accidents with drivers.

In Kelley v. Barnett, 897 P.2d 289 (1995), a driver sustained injury when a horse escaped from land owned by a rancher. The horse emerged from a drainage ditch and ran onto the road causing the car accident. After some investigation, the driver discovered that the animals on the rancher’s property had a history of escaping, and further investigation identified problems with the property’s fence.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court confirmed that when domestic animals are running at large as a result of the owner’s negligence, the owner can be held liable for any resulting accident or injuries. The court held that evidence of the owner’s negligence could include a poorly maintained fence, or a history of prior escapes.

Car or motorcycle accidents that result from animals running at large can implicate insurance polices that apply to the property where the animals were kept. For this reason, when a car or motorcycle accident results from an animal-collision, it is important to document the details regarding ownership of the animal, and because the property owner may promptly repair a poorly maintained fence, obtaining photographs showing a poorly maintained area could be critical to establishing liability.

If you have questions about motorcycle accidents or accidents involving animals running at-large, contact the attorneys at Bryan and Terrill Law in Tulsa, 918-935-2777.