Every year, hundreds of people are injured in automobile accidents involving livestock. Texas is a “free range” state, which means animals have the right-of-way on rural highways and farm-to-market roads. However, the owners of livestock also have a responsibility to ensure their animals do not escape, wander onto highways, and cause a serious car accident.
Need a Texas Livestock Accident Lawyer? Collen A. Clark is a true advocate for his clients and is passionate about helping Texans that have been injured or wronged. If you or a loved one was injured in an automobile accident involving livestock, you should contact our lawyers immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit in Texas.
Texas Automobile Accidents Involving Livestock
Determining who is at fault in a Texas automobile accident involving livestock can be challenging. Since the 1800s, Texas has been a “free range” state. The law originally allowed cattle and other livestock to freely roam the state. If the animals trespassed and caused damage, the owners were not liable for damages.
However, as automobiles became more common, the Texas state legislature placed limitations on the “free range” stock laws. In 1935, laws were passed prohibiting livestock owners from allowing their animals to roam on highways that had fences on both sides. If animals trespassed onto a highway, the owner could face criminal penalties for violating the law.
In 1959, the legislature passed laws prohibiting “knowingly” allowing animals to roam. They also prohibited animals from roaming on all interstate highways and state highways, whether fenced or not. However, livestock animals were still permitted to roam on farm-to-market roads in rural areas.
Further restrictions on the “free range” have been enacted in the last few decades. Today, individual counties have been left to decide whether to enact stock laws. These laws are passed by election. Counties without stock laws are known as “open range” and counties with stock laws are “closed range.”
Landowners in counties with stock laws have a higher obligation to ensure their animals are unable to trespass on highways. They must construct fences, build gates, and take other measures to prevent livestock from escaping.
If you are injured in an automobile accident with livestock, your lawyer must be able to prove that the livestock owner was negligent and breached their duty of care imposed by the local stock laws to restrain their animals.
Livestock Accidents in Closed Range Counties
In counties that do not have local stock laws, plaintiffs involved in an automobile accident with livestock must prove that the owner knowingly allowed stock to roam freely to impose liability on the livestock owner. However, the statute only applies to stock roaming on highways — not farm-to-market roads in rural areas.
What Happens if an Animal Escapes?
It is not unusual for livestock to break fences and escape onto roadways. The courts have addressed this issue by stating that livestock owners are not automatically in violation of the law when an animal escapes. As the Supreme Court said in Tex. & Pac. Ry. Co. v. Webb, 102 Tex. 210, 114 S.W. 1171 (Tex.1908):
“While the stock law is intended to require owners to confine animals, the running at large of which is prohibited, and one who permits them to run at large violates the law, it is true, nevertheless, that such animals may often escape without fault on the part of their owners, when the latter will be guilty of no offense of the law…But we cannot see how the stock law could so operate against one guilty of no violation of it; and, as before shown, the mere fact that an animal is at large is not necessarily a violation.”
Texas Statutes for Livestock Owners
143.101. Definition: In this subchapter, “highway” means a U.S. highway or a state highway in this state, but does not include a numbered farm-to-market road. The term includes the portion of Recreation Road Number 255 that is located in Newton County between State Highway Number 87 and the boundary line with Jasper County.
143.102. Running at Large on Highway Prohibited: A person who owns or has responsibility for the control of a horse, mule, donkey, cow, bull, steer, hog, sheep, or goat may not knowingly permit the animal to traverse or roam at large, unattended, on the right-of-way of a highway.
143.082. Penalty A person commits an offense if the person knowingly permits a head of cattle or a domestic turkey to run at large in a county or area that has adopted this subchapter.
Need a Livestock Accident Lawyer in Texas?
Collen A. Clark is a true advocate for his clients and is passionate about helping Texans that have been injured or wronged.
Collen’s amazing success in the courtroom and well known dedication to his clients has earned him the recognition of his peers as one of The Top Trial Lawyers in Texas.”
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