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Author Topic: Pet owner sent a bill to pay for car damage after dog is run over
Geraine
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http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.ce790ff71ff6bbbca9e18d3940bfe8d9.531&show_article=1

A dog was hit by a car, and State Farm sent the bill for the bumper to the pet owner. State Farm argues that the owner is responsible because there are leash laws, and the owner was not abiding by those leash laws.

I have to side with the insurance company on this. It is not the fault of the driver that a pet owner let his or her dog out without a leash on purpose.

I understand that pets can be considered family members and it is hard when they die, but had the owner been more responsible this would not have happened.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the dog owner should be responsible for the insurance bill? If not, who should be responsible?

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Lyrhawn
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No details on the driver. Was he speeding? What was the speed limit on the street in question?
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Goody Scrivener
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My first, knee-jerk response is to ask if State Farm is going to start billing grieving parents when their children dash out into the road and are killed by a driver who sustains vehicle damage.

I suppose in this specific case, the owner is somewhat liable for the dog not having been secured because they knew the dog had a tendency to wander the neighborhood when he was let out into the yard. If it weren't for that third-to-last paragraph, I would have assumed that the dog got free on his own, either by breaking free of a leash/tie-out or by ignoring a fence, both of which happened to me frequently when I had a dog as a kid.

But IMHO, the driver also bears responsibility. He was driving fast enough that he could not react to a road hazard, even if he was obeying the posted limit. If any condition exists to reduce visibility - weather, cars parked along the side of the road, trees/bushes, etc - the driver must adjust and be more aware of his surroundings. At least, that's what I was taught 20 years ago and what my daughter was taught 20 months ago in driver's ed.

Who would State Farm have gone after if the driver had hit a stray or wild animal?

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theCrowsWife
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I'm inclined to go with State Farm on this one, since they deliberately let the dog out to roam the neighborhood. I know that if any of my goats get out and get hit by a car, I'll be liable for damages.

--Mel

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Sean Monahan
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Details are lacking in this case. I'm definitely one who considers a dog a family member, and not just a pet. But in general, I'd have to agree with the insurance company. If the driver was not operating his vehicle negligently, and it was damaged due the negligence of another person, that person should be responsible for the damages. It appears in this case that the dog owner was negligent.

I can think of some scenarios where it wouldn't apply though, if the dog was loose not through any negligence on the part of the owner. For example, my parents' dog got loose about a month ago, because a contractor working in the backyard opened a gate without asking or informing my parents, and left it open when their work was done.

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rollainm
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Legally, State Farm is probably perfectly justified. Morally, I'd say not so much. Goody's knee-jerk response shows the flaw in moral justification for retribution here. What if it had been a child?

To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
My first, knee-jerk response is to ask if State Farm is going to start billing grieving parents when their children dash out into the road and are killed by a driver who sustains vehicle damage.
I think the key difference here is that there are laws in the area which require pet owners to keep their pets on a leash. These people failed in a legal responsibility. They were clearly negligent and their negligence caused damage to another persons vehicle.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no similar laws requiring that parents keep their children on a leash. If parental negligence lead to damage of someone property, I would expect them to be held legally responsible. If, for example, a child was left home alone and started a fire, I'm sure the parents would be held liable for damages even if the child was killed or badly injured in the fire.

I appreciate that people have very strong bonds with their pets, but I object to equating them with children. Pets aren't people. Animals have rights, but they don't have the same rights as humans.

People who own pets must be held responsible for controlling their pets. If they can't do that, they shouldn't own pets. If we made the same rule for children, the human race would die out in a generation because no one would be allowed to have children.

I'm more than happy to be personally inconvenienced for the sake of other peoples children. I'm happy to pay taxes for their education and give up my free time to help with child programs. I'm willing to support parents who need a helping hand. I'm willing to over look a certain amount of noise and mess and inconvenience from the neighbor kids.

I am not willing to be inconvenienced by other peoples dogs and I can't think of any compelling reason why I should be. People get pets for their personal benefit, and its rude for them to expect their community to bear any of the burden.

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Juxtapose
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I agree with the Rabbit here with one quibble: I don't think that the leash law is what creates the key difference, rather that the leash law recognizes that pet owners have a responsibility to the people around them, and to the pet itself. As uncomfortable as it is to say so, this family very likely has themselves to blame for the death of their dog. In this circumstance, I don't think tragedy ought to be a shield against responsibility.

Also, since we're creating hypotheticals, what if my dog runs out in front of your car and, unlikely though it may be, causes non-cosmetic damage to the vehicle? What if the car is rendered inoperable, or dangerous to operate, and you need that car to get to work?

ETA:
quote:
To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.
I agree it's motivated by money. I don't think we know enough to call it heartless. We only really have one quote of communication between State Farm and the Flemmings.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Goody Scrivener:
My first, knee-jerk response is to ask if State Farm is going to start billing grieving parents when their children dash out into the road and are killed by a driver who sustains vehicle damage.

Are there leash laws for children?
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mr_porteiro_head
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I don't see any problems with State Farm here. We have gone to great lengths to keep our giant dog on our property in part because we didn't want to be liable if somebody ran into her.
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scholarette
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Would people feel differently if the dog escaped from the backyard? How about if the meter reader left the gate open and the dog got out?
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Would people feel differently if the dog escaped from the backyard?
No.
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Lyrhawn
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If the dog escaped? Probably not, because it still suggests that the backyard should have been better secured to prevent that from happening.

If the meter reader did it...I guess the blame moves to the city.

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Drifter
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Here in NZ, the dog owner would be responsible regardless of whether the dog was deliberately or accidentally loose. This same law would apply to livestock. We have Public Liability Insurance to cover this, but it is not compulsory to have it.
Here, fencing laws require us to fence our animals in , but as I understand it, you guys have to fence other people's animals out. I wonder if this difference is contributing to the thought that the dog owners were somehow not responsible and shouldn't be liable for damages.

I can't see any moral dilemma. You are responsible for your pets.

[ May 28, 2010, 12:59 AM: Message edited by: Drifter ]

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Lyrhawn
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If the animal is accidentally loose because of someone else's negligence, like in the example of the meter reader leaving the gate open, then I don't think it's the homeowner's fault, otherwise I agree.

Also, I think it's just as much to keep our animals in.

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theCrowsWife
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quote:
Originally posted by Drifter:
Here, fencing laws require us to fence our animals in , but as I understand it, you guys have to fence other people's animals out.

That's only true in range states (west of the Mississippi), although heavily populated western states like California may no longer be that way. As far as I know, the rest of the United States requires animals to be fenced in.

--Mel

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AvidReader
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I'm passive-aggressive enough that I'm wondering if the family can get the bill paid by their homeowner's insurance. That's who would pay if the dog bit someone. Why not if the dog damages a car?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.

You may not be aware that as a publicly held corporation, State Farm is legally required to be purely motivated by money.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
I'm passive-aggressive enough that I'm wondering if the family can get the bill paid by their homeowner's insurance. That's who would pay if the dog bit someone. Why not if the dog damages a car?

I think that depends on a number of things. Homeowners insurance often won't pay if there is clear cut negligence on the part of the homeowner. If the dog was known to be vicious and the dog owners let the dog out intentionally, there is a good chance they wouldn't pay if the dog bit someone.

That said, I'm not sure why you think asking that question is passive aggressive.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.

You may not be aware that as a publicly held corporation, State Farm is legally required to be purely motivated by money.
Is that truly the case, from a non-semantic point of view? I mean, are publicly held corporations legally required, for instance, to interpret ethical requirements, whenever possible, in favor of the monetary upside? I ask for information- I don't know how far the law actually goes in requiring a public company to pursue profit over other missions.
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katharina
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There are leash laws, and the owners failed to follow them. There's no dilemma.

I understand that people love their pets and think of them as their children. That's fine. As long as they don't ask ME to think of them as equal to actual, human children, it's not a problem. When they do, then it is.

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Stephan
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I hate people that walk their dogs off leash. I DETEST people that walk their dogs off leash. I don't care how well trained your animal is. When that rabbit comes along, your dog is gone.

These people should not only pay for the damaged car, but be fined by the city for having an unleashed dog out there.

Their homeowner's insurance should cover the car damages, but $1700 is usually not worth filing. I can't remember if your deductible applies to liability claims (I've been out of the business too long).

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DarkKnight
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quote:
I don't care how well trained your animal is. When that rabbit comes along, your dog is gone.
This is demonstrably untrue yet the point still remains that dogs should be on a leash and under the handlers control in most places.
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rollainm
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.

You may not be aware that as a publicly held corporation, State Farm is legally required to be purely motivated by money.
Ehh. When it comes down to it, I'm not arguing that State Farm is wrong or unjustified in their actions.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.

You may not be aware that as a publicly held corporation, State Farm is legally required to be purely motivated by money.
Is that truly the case, from a non-semantic point of view? I mean, are publicly held corporations legally required, for instance, to interpret ethical requirements, whenever possible, in favor of the monetary upside? I ask for information- I don't know how far the law actually goes in requiring a public company to pursue profit over other missions.
I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it for profit corporations have a single legal purpose, to make money for their stock holders.
Here is a pretty good discussion of the issues by a former corporate lawyer.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Their homeowner's insurance should cover the car damages, but $1700 is usually not worth filing. I can't remember if your deductible applies to liability claims (I've been out of the business too long).
I disagree. Homeowners insurance isn't like car insurance in this respect. The deductible on my homeowners insurance is only a couple hundred dollars and premiums on homeowners insurance are not likely to go up when you file a claim.
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rollainm
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Their homeowner's insurance should cover the car damages, but $1700 is usually not worth filing. I can't remember if your deductible applies to liability claims (I've been out of the business too long).
I disagree. Homeowners insurance isn't like car insurance in this respect. The deductible on my homeowners insurance is only a couple hundred dollars and premiums on homeowners insurance are not likely to go up when you file a claim.
Hah. Have you ever filed a claim?
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Stephan
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Depends on the company. Allstate and Frederick Mutual will often take away a claim's free discount (different rules in different states though). Erie gives you one claim every five years that won't effect your rate.

In many states insurance companies have made it so that it is cost effective to raise your deductible. When I sold Erie, it often saved policy holders around $200 a year to go from a $250 to a $1000 deductible. Considering more then likely you are not going to file a claim every five years, most of my clients did it.

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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
To put it bluntly, that's just cold. It's a heartless response motivated purely by money.

You may not be aware that as a publicly held corporation, State Farm is legally required to be purely motivated by money.
Is that truly the case, from a non-semantic point of view? I mean, are publicly held corporations legally required, for instance, to interpret ethical requirements, whenever possible, in favor of the monetary upside? I ask for information- I don't know how far the law actually goes in requiring a public company to pursue profit over other missions.
I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it for profit corporations have a single legal purpose, to make money for their stock holders.
Here is a pretty good discussion of the issues by a former corporate lawyer.

State Farm is actually a mutual insurance company. It is owned by its policy holders. It differs from companies like Allstate which are owned by stockholders.
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NewShadow
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Their homeowner's insurance should cover the car damages, but $1700 is usually not worth filing. I can't remember if your deductible applies to liability claims (I've been out of the business too long).
I disagree. Homeowners insurance isn't like car insurance in this respect. The deductible on my homeowners insurance is only a couple hundred dollars and premiums on homeowners insurance are not likely to go up when you file a claim.
Deductibles do not apply to a liability claim. The number of claims made against your HO policy directly effects the price of the policy at renewal. Some HO providers will non-renew the policy if you make too many claims. Too many claims can be as little as two. Or even one if you're a fairly new customer.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Stephan:
I hate people that walk their dogs off leash. I DETEST people that walk their dogs off leash. I don't care how well trained your animal is. When that rabbit comes along, your dog is gone.

Meh, I live in a city and country where off-leash walking is the norm, and for the most part you don't notice a difference when everybody is doing it that way. For one thing, dogs don't approach you or other dogs the same way if they are unrestrained, and generally people are aware enough of their dog's personality to know whether or not a lead is required. I see dogs that have them, along with muzzles (because it's required in order to bring dogs on the metros and trams), but I find the highly permissive dog culture no more chaotic than in any other less dog friendly city.

I should say the only issue with people in this country is that they bring their dogs to restaurants and pubs frequently, and it upsets people who are frightened of dogs when they are underfoot. Czechs are not very sensitive about such things- fear of dogs is not in the culture.

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fugu13
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There's no requirement that a corporation be purely motivated by money. Even leaving aside that corporations are allowed to incorporate certain sorts of moral restrictions into their charters, the requirement is only that they attempt to maximize the money -- and the path that will maximize money is left up to director discretion in almost all cases (and this isn't even near any of them).

That is, all a director has to say is "I believe not pursuing this will lead to more money in the long term", and that's what the law has to presume is true.

In other words, there is nothing at all in the legal requirement that directors maximize returns for the shareholders that would require State Farm to take any actions against the dog owners. Nothing whatsoever. This is a common misunderstanding of that part of corporate law.

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Orincoro
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That was more or less what I expected to be the case in reality. I suppose a company could claim their imperative as a defense, but couldn't be held to the fire for not pursuing it in such cases.
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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:

In other words, there is nothing at all in the legal requirement that directors maximize returns for the shareholders that would require State Farm to take any actions against the dog owners. Nothing whatsoever. This is a common misunderstanding of that part of corporate law.

Insurance companies are supposed to recoup their losses when possible. They are also obligated to help their client get their deductible back when possible. As long as it does not cost them more in court fees then the cost to recover it (in this case a letter, stamp, and envelope).

In this case, State Farm, paid their client damages for his car minus his deductible. They are recovering their money, plus his deductible which will be returned to him.

State Farm is actually owned by its policy holders, there are no stock holders. You cannot actually buy stock in State Farm.

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fugu13
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I said shareholders. State Farm does have shareholders: they are the policy holders.

There might be additional fiduciary duties on insurance companies, but I strongly suspect that they can choose not to recoup losses where they view such recouping as inimical to the long-term prospects of the company (and that view can be grounded in moral reasons).

Heck, in this case they'd almost certainly be right not to pursue, even from a purely short-term monetary standpoint: the negative PR has probably cost them many times the original amount.

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