Livestock Liability FAQs

March 31, 2015 | By Riddle & Brantley Accident Injury Lawyers
Livestock Liability FAQs

Periodically, we are contacted by potential clients who have been involved a collision with a horse or a cow in the roadway. Often these people are seriously hurt as a collision with a large animal such as a horse or cow can be tremendous.

In reviewing these cases, we must be able to determine who is the owner or keeper of the animal and if that person’s negligence caused the collision. In certain situations, the owner of the animal can be liable for the damages; however, this is not always the case.

Have you or someone you love been injured in a livestock-related accident?

At the law offices of Riddle & Brantley, our team of experienced personal injury lawyers have detailed knowledge of North Carolina's personal injury laws and welcome the opportunity to discuss the merits of your claim. To learn more about your legal options, call us today at (800) 525-7111 or simply fill out our free case review form located to the right. Your first consultation is 100% FREE and we only get paid when we obtain a recovery on your behalf.


The law holds the owner or keeper of the domestic animal liable in situations where the owner/keeper’s negligence caused the accident. In other words, you may hold the person accountable who is responsible for keeping the animal. This is not always the owner, but most times the owner and keeper are the same. In all the cases we have handled involving cows in the road, the owner and keeper were the same.

However, we have handled cases involving horses in the road where the keeper was not the owner. Our claims were made against the keeper of the horse because the owner was paying the keeper to fence and feed the horse. The keeper was the responsible party that allowed the horse to get into the roadway.

There must be an act of negligence on the part of the owner/keeper in order to hold him or her liable for damages as a result of an accident involving the livestock.

The owner/keeper MUST have known that his animal is out or can get out and then the owner/keeper must fail to take reasonably PROMPT action to restrain the freedom of the animal. Just the mere fact that the animal is found out and running around on the road is not sufficient to prove that the animal was running at large with the owner/keeper’s knowledge and consent. Notice of the animal being free to roam is a key to proving liability on the part of the owner/keeper.

If the animal is repeatedly found running at large then the owner/keeper will be inferred to have knowledge and consent.

In the cases we have handled in the past, we have been successful in proving that the owner/keeper had knowledge and consent because we could prove that the animal had been in the road at least one time in the recent past. In cases involving collisions with cows, the owner/keeper’s negligence usually meant that the owner/keeper left the gate open or failed to repair a downed section of the fence for a long period of time. In other words, the cow did not just get out. The owner/keeper allowed the cow to get out. These collisions usually occurred at night too which makes it very difficult for the operator of a vehicle to see a dark animal in the road.

Cases involving horses vary significantly as compared to those involving cows. The collisions with horses usually don’t happen at night but during the daytime. This creates a different legal situation because animals are easier to see in the daylight and the driver of the car has a duty to avoid what should be seen and avoided.

Often these cases involved horses that escape the control of a rider. We have actually handled a case where the driver of a vehicle was hit by a runaway horse with a rider. We determined that the rider and keeper of the horse were negligent because the rider and horse should have never been close to the highway. In this type of case, you can make a claim against the keeper of the horse if the owner is paying the keeper to stable the horse. In these situations, the owner of the stable usually provides the insurance coverage to cover the accident.

Each Case is Different—Having A Reputable Lawyer Helps

We have learned over the years that each case involving the collision between a vehicle and horse or cow is different and must be reviewed under the facts of that case. If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt or injured as a result of a horse or cow running into the road we invite you to contact us by filling out our free form or by calling us at (800) 525-7111.

Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers are currently offering free consultations to victims of livestock accidents and are ready to help explain the legal options that may be available to you. At the law offices of Riddle & Brantley, we only get paid when we obtain a recovery on your behalf.