Responsibility for damages to car which struck our pet.
December 17, 2007 6:56 AM   Subscribe

My dog got hit by a car this morning. She is not allowed out unleashed (normally) but got out this morning and ran in front of a car. There are a lot of snowbanks around so I do not fault the driver. However, his car was damaged a bit, front skirt. Should I offer to repair the damages? The driver did stop and was very concerned for the dog.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (37 answers total)
My gut reaction is to say no, you don't need to offer to pay for the damage to the car, after all the guy hit your dog. But at the same time, I wouldn't expect the driver to cover any vet's fees either. Since it's an accident both ways, it's right that both people cover their own areas of responsibility.
posted by paulfreeman at 7:05 AM on December 17, 2007

1) Since you didn't have a 'thank god' in you post, I assume your dog didn't make it. My condolences. If I'm wrong, let there be rejoicing.
2) Guy hits you. He seemed very apologetic, so should you pay for the damages caused by your body? No. I don't think you should pay for the dog's damages either. Send him a flower basket or somesuch for being nice.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2007

Well, depending on the leash laws in your area, I know where I grew up a person can be found liable for having their dog run free in this type of situation. Which is sad in that it can add insult to injury.
posted by Amby72 at 7:10 AM on December 17, 2007

Unless the driver threatens to sue you, I'd say no. But that's just me -- I'm just not going to go out of my way to help someone who killed my dog, even if they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:16 AM on December 17, 2007

I'm sorry for your dog getting hit, that's awful. That said, Amby72 is correct. If there is a leash law, you could be legally liable for the damages, since the dog wasn't under your control.

Unless the driver was speeding or otherwise breaking the law, he was using the road as intended and, as you said, your dog ran out in front of him. There likely was no way he could have not hit your dog, and I really can't see how he should take a financial hit because your dog was loose.

You should pay for the damages.
posted by grumpy at 7:19 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

It would be very gracious of you to offer, and it would be very gracious of the driver to refuse. (Lots of assumptions of human decency here.)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2007 [6 favorites]

Actually, yes, I'd go with Sweetie Darling's response.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:35 AM on December 17, 2007

don't offer nuthin'!

right now, you're out vet fees and a dog. he has minor car damage. he hasn't asked you to pay for it, there will be time enough to consider paying if he does. an offer might be construed as an admission of liability and you might get a whiplash claim next.
posted by bruce at 7:41 AM on December 17, 2007

I agree with Bruce. You say there were snowbanks - ice could have been a part of the problem. Who is to say the driver wasn't traveling too fast for icy conditions and would otherwise have been able to avoid the dog? If you didn't witness the accident (and context leads me to believe you didn't), why rely solely on the driver's description of the accident? I am not calling a stranger a liar, but human nature and normal brain functioning would lead the driver to recount a slightly more favorable version of events.

Don't offer responsibility; your laudable intention to do the right thing might yield unanticipated bad results, as Bruce suggests.

I'm sorry about your dog.
posted by bunnycup at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2007

What an awful event -- for all parties.

I am a driver and a dog owner. So, if I was driving, and I am a reasonable driver, and your dog ran out and I hit it, I would feel absolutely horrible, and the fact that I seriously hurt or killed a dog or any animal would stay with me for a long, long time.

Add to that the fact that my car is damaged and I'd feel really bad.

I'd feel bad for the dog, for you and for myself.

People make mistakes and dogs do get loose, but I would hope for an apology from you, despite your loss -- because we're both going to have to live with this and yes, you're going to have to pay vet bills and I am going to have to pay car bills (and yes, it would be nice if you offered, and unless my insurance company said I had to file a claim against you, I'd have my insurance cover it (there's no way I could pay for something like that out of pocket).
posted by nnk at 8:15 AM on December 17, 2007

If I were in your shoes I would offer to pay; if I were in the driver's shoes I would refuse and let insurance take care of it. I had similar damage to my car less than a month after I bought it and it was over $1000.00 to fix it, so that might help put things in perspective.

I hope the dog is OK, and if not my condolences. The fact that the driver stopped makes it worth an offer to pay, in my book.
posted by TedW at 8:23 AM on December 17, 2007

I hit a dog in similar circumstances about five or six years ago. I felt terrible and still feel terrible that it happened. I would not have accepted any money for the damage to my car, were it offered. I am also mad at the owners of the dog for allowing it to happen, and there's not a time I pass the spot of the accident without thinking about it.

I know that the loss of a pet is a terrible, terrible loss, but there are many injured parties. It's not as simple as: "Who's at fault here?"
posted by MarkAnd at 8:27 AM on December 17, 2007

As much as it sucks, and if money isn't your biggest concern in the world, I'd say offer him the money. It seems that there was absolutely no fault on his end, so why try to stick it to him?
posted by Cochise at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2007

In BC (note future anonmyous askers, a location (at least a country if not state/province is often helpful)) in practically any altercation between a vehicle and an animal, domestic or wild, damage to the vehicle is covered by comprehensive coverage and doesn't result in increase insurance premiums. So if they have comprehensive you'd only be on the hook for the deductible and it would seem fair to me to offer to pay that. Though if I was the driver I wouldn't expect the offer (and in the two times this has happened to me neither dog owner offered).
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 AM on December 17, 2007

Hi all, I posted the question. And I agree with most, it is my dog and I should offer to reimburse the damages. People being what they are I know that I could be setting myself up for a large expense above and beyond the actual costs of the damage, which is why I asked the question. My little baby is fine (better than the car as it turns out) and I am relieved. She is rarely off leash like she was and I feel guilty (though town has no leash laws) that she was today.
posted by evilelf at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2007

"It seems that there was absolutely no fault on his end"

Wow. Someone who heard a report over the internet from someone who didn't actually see the accident but relied on the report of a potentially-at-fault (thus presumptively biased) third party has concluded there was ABSOLUTELY no fault on the drivers end. So (please read the thickness of this sarcasm), maybe you SHOULD hand over a blank checkbook (which is what an apology could do).
posted by bunnycup at 9:18 AM on December 17, 2007

I'm so happy that your dog is ok, evilelf.

You sound like a very reasonable and rational human being. I know you'll come up with the right solution.
posted by grumpy at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2007

Seconding the joy that your dog is okay - it probably feels like the money is nothing compared to the luck that your pup was unharmed. I would probably feel the same way.
posted by bunnycup at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2007

2) Guy hits you. He seemed very apologetic, so should you pay for the damages caused by your body?

An Acquaintance of mine ran into a drunken person and the drunk had to pay for the damage to her car.
posted by delmoi at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2007

YAY! I am so happy your pup is well. That's how I interpreted it in your original post, though I was in the minority. :)

I'm with Sweetie Darling, overall. But I'd be most interested in the insurance implications. If I hit a dog and sustained damage to my car, I'd call my insurance agent and ask what happens in such situations. Since you're not in that position ... you could still call your insurance agent and get that information, and then approach the driver with what you find. (Insurance rates don't increase for things like this, at least not in my experience. [Last fall/winter, a friend hit my car with her car in her driveway, and a snowbank pulled my car apart, I filed both claims and there were no premium changes.])
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2007

2) Guy hits you. He seemed very apologetic, so should you pay for the damages caused by your body?

I'm not sure what this scenario is supposed to represent, but it certainly bears no relation to what happened here. I'm glad the dog is ok, but clearly the person at fault here is the owner and not the driver. (This is, of course, predicated on the details we have, as well as those that presumably would have been included were they relevant and the driver was at fault.) If your dog darts out into traffic, you are responsible for the consequences.

That said, I agree that the classy thing would be for the driver to decline any money.
posted by OmieWise at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2007

Well, it is your fault that the guys car is damaged (if your dog wasn't roaming free, he never would have had to deal with the whole stressful affair). I think the responsible, courteous thing to do would be to offer to pay the damages.

It seems that AskMe is not the best place to ask pet related questions. In general, any answer that places any responsibility for anything on the owner/animal gets shouted down by the shrill "oh my god he tried to murder your best friend" set.
posted by davey_darling at 10:15 AM on December 17, 2007

It might be the right thing to do since he didn't do anything wrong. Your dog DID run out into the middle of the road unexpectedly, if I understand correctly. Were I in your shoes I wouldn't offer, but if he asked I'd do it. The only reason I wouldn't offer is because I would figure that losing my dog would be enough punishment. But again, if he asked I wouldn't fight him on it.
posted by shmegegge at 10:58 AM on December 17, 2007

You could offer to split the cost of repairs, since it's possible you both share some blame. You don't know how much of this accident was his fault (was he reaching down to retrieve a dropped donut and took his eyes off the road?), and it is partly your fault (your property somehow caused damage to someone else's property). Of course, you have to be prepared to suck up the whole cost if the driver decides to not be classy about it.

Glad Doggie's ok though! Maybe this experience will sour her on making a break for it the next time the door is open.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:59 AM on December 17, 2007

Your dog DID run out into the middle of the road unexpectedly.

This is driving me crazy. The person potentially at fault CLAIMS this is what happened. If I was speeding on an icy road trying to make a light so I could get to work .4 seconds faster, that is exactly what I would say, too. Maybe it IS what happened (I am really not trying to call the driver a liar), but it's just as likely not what happened.

/lets go and moves on with life
posted by bunnycup at 11:15 AM on December 17, 2007

Well, bunnycup, I understand how you feel. Given the time of day it could have just as easily been a child waiting for the school bus but thankfully it was not (I love my dog but there is a difference). Speeding, who knows, I would be guilty of speeding down similar side streets before I became a home owner and parent.
posted by evilelf at 11:23 AM on December 17, 2007

Yes, you should offer to pay for the damage. You chose to keep a pet and you are responsible for it when it runs free.

And, yes, you can be legally responsible for damage to a car that hits you if you are at fault for the accident (at least in BC). Why should a dog be any different?
posted by ssg at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2007

bunnycup, perhaps if you read the question again, where the stated sequence of events is as people have been quoting it, you might better be able to understand why your version of the nefarious driver isn't getting more play in the thread.
posted by OmieWise at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2007

Heck, if the OP has decided to accept the (unwitnessed, OmieWise, so how could quoting it shed any light or raise the reliability?) version of events isn't that enough of that?
posted by bunnycup at 12:15 PM on December 17, 2007

Well, since we can only use the information provided to us by the OP, operating from the information provided is, indeed, more reliable than not doing so. It certainly helps to ground the answer in something in the question. I'm not sure where you're getting, for instance, the information that the accident was unwitnessed. I don't see it either expressed or implied in either the question or evilelf's first follow-up. It does seem to be implied in "Speeding, who knows," in evilelf's second comment, but since that was after your admonition that people are giving the driver too much credit, I'm sure it wasn't what you were responding to.
posted by OmieWise at 12:32 PM on December 17, 2007

The dog is "not allowed out unleashed", so obviously the OP was not with the dog at the time it got hit (or it would have been on a leash). Since the OP was not with the dog when it got hit, the OP cannot have any knowledge of what happened that is not based on the (biased) report from the other driver, and has drawn conclusions based on that report. If any fact suggested the OP had witnessed the accident (or of the OP responds that they did witness it), my feelings might very well change. I've only answered the question as presented, without making any assumption that the OP witnessed the accident but didn't say so (when that assumption would be illogical given the context of the question). Not making assumptions about the effect of facts not presented in the question is something that was drilled into me in law school, perhaps to a fault.

I'm not disputing that the OP is welcome to come to the conclusion to offer payment, only that OP should anticipate the possibility of unanticipated potentially serious financial ramifications and decide accordingly. It would be really sad, but not unexcpected, if in trying to do the right, an undoubtedly nice thing that shows what an honest, responsible, ethical, fair person OP is, the OP got taken advantage of in the end. On the other hand, I acknowledge that everything could have happened exactly as the other driver said it did - but without knowing that to be true, or having a reasonable basis to believe it, I remain cynical and suspicious - obviously I am not NEARLY as generous as OP.

/not good at letting go, lol
posted by bunnycup at 12:52 PM on December 17, 2007

maybe you SHOULD hand over a blank checkbook (which is what an apology could do)

I don't feel like gathering the evidence right now, but that is the conventional wisdom when it comes to medical malpractice, and it is also not backed up by statistics. There are numerous examples out there of hospitals who went from the attitude you describe to making a point of explicitly apologizing for bad outcomes regardless of the cause and their malpractice claims went down. Lest you think I am speaking in abstract terms, just this morning I had a meeting with the family of a patient who had an unanticipated mishap in the OR; no serious harm occurred but after we sucked up and admitted our errors the father went out of his way to reassure us that he was not interested in suing, he just wanted to know exactly what happened and that we were doing our best to make sure it didn't happen again. In other words, an apology and admission of guilt is often the best defense against a liability claim. It doesn't sound like liability us the main concern here, but for sake of a comprehensive debate I thought I would add my two cents.

Bottom line: listen to your conscience and proceed accordingly.
posted by TedW at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2007

The dog is "not allowed out unleashed", so obviously the OP was not with the dog at the time it got hit (or it would have been on a leash).

Oh, well, I see that we have different ideas about what may have happened, then. I can think of several logical and entirely plausible situations in which the dog "got out" as the question puts it, and the OP was there to see the dog get hit. Your conclusions (which you've definitely drawn) are not more logical or consistent with the presented material or obvious than mine, they're just different.

Since it isn't explicitly stated, you assume that the OP heard about the accident from someone else (you seem to assume that was the driver, although all we know is that the driver stopped and was concerned about the dog), since it isn't explicitly stated I assume that they did not hear about it from someone else (most especially the driver).
posted by OmieWise at 1:21 PM on December 17, 2007

OmieWise: Exactly. Unless warranted by any implication whatsoever that another person was there to tell the tale, I do not assume the presence of that third person. PARTICULARLY when the question notes that the driver stopped and conversed with OP, but does not reference the presence of anyone else. All I can do is try to respond to the facts presented, not the facts that might have been.

I do make one assumption though that's not necessarily warranted by the facts - and I'll admit it since when pressed, it is pertinent. I assume that if OP was there, witnessing the event, OP would have called the dog and the dog would have come. That if the dog was off leash but in OP's presence (i.e. dog ran away but had been found), the dog would have been under OP's control. Frankly, I think that assumption is warranted because nothing in the original question nor the later follow up implies that OP witnessed the accident, but it is an assumption I'm making. I'm also making an assumption that the laws of physics remained in force in that particular time and location (haha).

(I really, really don't want to give the impression that I'm anything but thrilled the dog is okay, or that I think OP is anything but admirable for taking blame rather than pointing a finger, even where blame might not be warranted. I admit that I am more cynical than the average person, definitely).
posted by bunnycup at 1:36 PM on December 17, 2007

I assume that if OP was there, witnessing the event, OP would have called the dog and the dog would have come.

Yes, but that isn't a small, incidental assumption, it's huge! It colors your whole reading of the question, which is fine, but doesn't make your conclusions based on logic. Your conclusions are only logical once you factor in your assumptions.

As I said, we both make assumptions, and neither is more logical or correct. Even if the OP confirms one or the other state of affairs, as written the question admits to both interpretations.
posted by OmieWise at 1:54 PM on December 17, 2007

You're assuming the guy would personally have to pay to get the car repaired; this is highly likely, it is true, but it may not be the case. It might be a work vehicle or something, in which case he probably only has to fill out an accident report, and if you paid him anything he would get into trouble over it. You haven't described the car in any way either; it might be a junker he just doesn't give a damn about. There might be some sort of legal or financial encumbrance on the car that makes arranging to have it repaired it extremely awkward. He might have been driving it to trade in on some "bring a car in in any condition!" offer. The guy might love dogs more than people and a lot more than money, and just be relieved the dog wasn't badly hurt. The guy might be loaded and have looked at you and your dog and thought "No way can I in good conscience ask this person, whose dog I nearly killed, for hundreds of dollars." (Which may be unwarranted in your case, but it may be the conclusion he jumped to.) He might be on his way somewhere urgently and not want to spend the time dealing with this matter any further.

Ask him this: "I feel somewhat responsible for this, since it was my dog who damaged your car. What are you planning to do to get it repaired? I'd like to contribute in some way."

If he's claiming it on his own insurance, offer to pay the excess. If it's a work vehicle or something, both of you can breathe sighs of relief, and don't worry about it further. If he says he'll have to pay for it himself, offer to pay half. If he says again, "Don't worry about it," respect his decision, breathe a sigh of relief, and don't pursue the matter further.

If you pay him, ideally get a receipt or at the very least do it in the presence of witnesses. If he or his insurer or his work's insurer later decides you should pay, or pay more, well, you were prepared to do so in the first place, so mail off your check with a smile.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:59 PM on December 17, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed -- CHILL OUT. if you're not answering the OPs question, go flip out elsewhere, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2007

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