Killed my dog and kept on driving...

by Rosa
(Van Nuys, CA)

My mother was in our front yard with our dog. She was tending to our plants when she heard a car hit something and it was our dog. The truck did not stop at all. She ran to our dog. Our neighbor saw everything and thankfully he got the car's license plate.

My dog died on the way to the pet hospital. Is there anything we can do? Isn't the driver in some way responsible for killing our dog? Is the hit and run a crime? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Killed my dog and kept on driving...":

Rosa (Van Nuys, CA):

According to the State of California's Penal Code, Section 20002, it is a crime for a motorist to drive a motor vehicle away from the scene of a collision where the motorist caused property damage. Like it or not, in the eyes of the law, a dog is considered property. (Section 20001 deals with injury or death to a human being.)

To paraphrase Section 20002:

(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location...

(1) Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the property...

(c) Any person failing to comply with all the requirements of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

Contact the Van Nuys Police Department. Tell them you have evidence a motorist caused property damage (killing your dog) and that the motorist fled the scene of the collision in violation of Section 20002.

If the police follow up and arrest or cite the motorist, you can then contact the prosecutor handling the case. Ask the prosecutor if the motorist will be receiving a probated sentence. If so, ask that as part of the conditions of probation the motorist be required to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing another dog.

While this may not be enough to bring back your dog, it will at least afford you some sense of justice.

You can also sue the motorist in Small Claims Court. In the State of California the maximum, or "jurisdictional," limit is $7500.00 dollars. You can sue for the costs of replacing a similar breed, and ask the judge to award you an additional amount for the emotional distress and mental anguish.

While convincing a judge to make an award for emotional distress and mental anguish over a dog is a stretch, you have nothing to lose by trying.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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