19th August 2023     Sophia Hogg

Who’s Liable if You Hit Roaming Cattle or Livestock

Agriculture is an important part of the lifestyle and economy in Texas. However, owners of cattle or other livestock sometimes fail to keep their animals contained in a fence. When these animals are on the roadway, they pose a serious risk of injury or even death for drivers. 

When a driver or vehicle occupant is injured in an accident involving roaming cattle or livestock, the owner of the animal may be liable in many cases for compensating the costs and psychological consequences of the accident. This liability depends on where the accident occurred and the circumstances that led the animal to be on the road.

When the Livestock Owner Is Liable

Through the years, Texas has enacted several laws about liability in accidents involving livestock on the roadway. One of the important aspects of this law is what type of road the accident occurred on. If cattle are roaming on a federal or state highway, the animal’s owner is typically responsible for covering damage to the vehicle and physical injuries suffered by the vehicle’s occupants. Federal roads are considered “closed range,” and livestock owners are prohibited from allowing their animals to graze there.

For non-state and federal highways, liability depends on the laws enacted by the county where the accident occurred. If the county has designated the road as open range, the animal’s owner is not necessarily liable for the damage. If the county has not enacted range laws on the roadway, they are considered open range. However, even in open-range areas, livestock owners are typically required to fence their animals. If it can be proven that the owner knew that their gate was open or their fence needed to be repaired and failed to take measures to keep their livestock contained, they may still be found liable even in open-range areas.

When the Driver of the Vehicle Is Liable

If an accident occurred in an open range area, the owner of the animal is not necessarily liable for compensating the expenses and impacts when an accident with a vehicle occurs. 

Unfortunately, there is a patchwork of laws throughout the counties in Texas, and some of these counties prohibit the open-range grazing on roadways of some types of animals but not others. Texas stock laws govern cattle, domestic turkeys, hogs, goats, donkeys, horses, mules, jacks, jennets, and sheep.

Even on state and federal roads that are considered closed range, the animal’s owner may not be liable if they did not know or have reason to know that the animal has escaped its fencing. Additionally, if the animal’s owner’s fence was cut by law enforcement or emergency responders—with or without the owner’s permission—they are generally not liable if their animal gets onto the roadway and causes an accident.

How a Lawyer Can Help You Determine Liability

Texas stock laws are often confusing, leaving injured vehicle occupants unsure of who is liable. To seek compensation through Texas’ personal injury or wrongful death claims process, you and your lawyer must be able to prove liability. A personal injury lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation of where and how the accident occurred and help you understand how the laws apply to your case.

One of the key features of liability under Texas stock laws is whether the owner “knowingly” allowed the animal to roam outside of their fence. As explained by the Texas Farm Bureau, a landowner knowingly allows their livestock to graze the roadway if:

  • They were aware that their fences would not withstand rainfall but took no action to reinforce the fences and protect others from the risk of getting into an accident involving their cattle.
  • They knew that their cattle had previously escaped from the fences due to damage to the fence.
  • The owner had been previously informed by law enforcement that their cattle were roaming on the roadway but did not make an effort to determine how the cattle were escaping the area.
  • The owner was negligent in the inspection and repair of their fences.

In addition to investigating the accident to determine liability, a personal injury lawyer can also examine the insurance resources held by the at-fault animal owner that can compensate the claim. The most common insurance resource in this type of claim is the animal owner’s property liability insurance policy, which covers damage to others that was incurred due to the landowner’s negligence in maintaining their fences.

Other Services a Lawyer Can Provide to Help You Seek Compensation for Your Injuries

An experienced personal injury lawyer can handle all aspects of a claim involving a liable property owner. This includes establishing a value to the claim, communicating with the insurance provider about the claim and negotiating a settlement, filing a personal injury lawsuit, and even representing the case in court, if necessary.

Individuals who have been injured in accidents caused by an animal owner’s negligence can obtain the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer regardless of their ability to pay for the lawyer’s time. Most Texas personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, which means they do not require their clients to make an upfront investment (retainer) to hire them or pay an hourly fee when their legal team works on their case. Instead, they are paid a percentage of the settlement or award they garner for the claimant at the end of the process.

Injured in an Accident Involving Livestock? Dale R. Rose Can Help

When an accident involving livestock occurs, there is a significant risk of the vehicle’s occupants being injured or even killed. Attorney Dale R. Rose understands the difficulties that accompany such injuries and is committed to fighting for the compensation that the injured and their families need.

Let us help you understand liability in your roaming cattle or livestock case. For your free case evaluation, contact us by calling (972) 634-ROSE (7673) or sending us a message through our contact form.


Dale R. Rose

Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, has been a victim of a workplace accident, or any other personal injury, Dale Rose is the best attorney for you in McKinney, Texas. With 25+ years of experience, Dale is committed to helping you get the compensation & justice you deserve.

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