When the wildfires we’re experiencing rip across California, individuals and families can lose a lot — whether it was their homes, rental properties, cars or businesses.
One thing we often forget to consider is the other living things that can be affected by the fires. Animals and trees are caught up in these blazes too — all too often these animals are our pets or prized livestock thousands of California farmers depend on to make a living.
Whether your pet or livestock has been killed or hurt in the wildfires, you’re probably left alone feeling confused and angry about what you’re going to do. Keep in mind, these fires are more than often the cause of negligence whether it be from a power company or somewhere else. You can hold those responsible accountable for their actions by paying for vet bills, vet treatment or even replace the value of your lost animal.
Even though many Californians like to think of their pets as family, in the eyes of the California court pets are seen as personal property. In California, personal property can be recovered through damages, especially in the case of livestock where farmers depend on those animals as a source of their income.
When and if your pet or livestock has been injured, the first thing an owner of that animal is going to do is see a California vet. Any party responsible for the burn injuries and smoke inhalation of those animals are going to be liable for those vet bills. However, in California, the chief arguing point a potential defendant is going to make is paying for “reasonable” injuries only.
Many factors will come into play when litigating the cost of vet bills for a pet or livestock injured in a wildfire. These can include the extent of the injury, the age of the animal and the species of the animal. Bills for an older animal are going to be perpetually higher, so a California judge may be inclined to limit the amount of compensation for that animal.
If your pet or livestock has been injured as the result of a fire and they’ve been hospitalized as a result of those burn injuries, make sure you’ve kept a record of all the bills from the vet for documentation. To be extra careful, document the time you’ve taken off work to care for your pet or livestock — there’s potential lost wages to recoup there as well.
What is my pet or livestock worth?
In California, we have three different ways a court can measure the economic value of your pet or livestock. Those three measures are:
Fair Market Value: If your pet or livestock was being sold on the open market today, how much would it be worth? That’s what a California judge is going to ask you when making a decision on how much your pet or livestock is worth. When determining market value, a court is going to look at the original purchase price of the animal, the original health of the animal, the age of the animal and its breed or pedigree.
Replacement Cost: Especially in the case of show dogs or prize-winning livestock, you can receive the replacement cost of your animal. This price is often higher than market value because it factors in training, accomplishments, and certifications.
Special Economic Value: There are times where a pet or livestock’s economic value is hard to determine. In the case of service animals or working animals, the services they provide and their effectiveness can make determining value especially difficult. “Stud fees” can be applied to help replace animals who are determined to be one of a kind and have skills that can’t be replaced on the open market for pets and livestock.
A judge may also require a potential defendant to help pay for the assistance a person needs because their service animal did it for them while the service animal was still alive.
In the case of livestock, where breeding is a key part of their function on a farm, a California judge can potentially replace the lost income and earning power from the offspring of lost livestock.
Most pets around California aren’t going to be the kind who can reap stud fees for having special qualifications and abilities. For most California pets, companionship is the most valuable asset they provide to their owners. While it can be difficult for a court to measure the economic value of companionship, there are cases from around the country where judges have awarded damages for the loss of companionship.
A California pet owner may try to exceed the market value of what their pet is worth by filing suit against a potential defendant for the metal stress suffered by watching their pet die a slow death in a fire. These are not common damages we see won in California, but these have been won in other states around the country. A California pet owner would have to sue on the grounds that the potential defendant was acting maliciously in the act of killing or injuring the pet.
Livestock as wages and income
California is home the second highest livestock population in the country behind Texas and is home to the country’s most lucrative dairy farming market — meaning cows are some of California’s most prized possessions when it comes to the economy.
Very often cows can see themselves caught up ion our wildfires and can be either injured or killed as a result. The farmers who own these cows can not only sue for the replacement value of the cows but for the lost income and future earnings, the cows can provide.
According to the University of Arkansas’ school of agriculture, one cow can produce up to seven gallons of milk a day, which over the course of its milking producing lifetime can equate to thousands of gallons of milk. Once these cows are done being used for milk, they can be processed for beef. Essentially, one cow can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in lost income from everything it provides to one farmer.
Call attorney Ryan Sargent Today
Whether it’s your pet or prized livestock, don’t just let their injuries or death go unaccounted for. These wildfires are hardly ever an accident, so someone or thing must be held accountable for the losses of your prized animals. The strong legal team at The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers has advocated for the victims of wildfire before and they can help you too.
Ryan Sargent and his team of California attorneys can make sure your pet and livestock get the treatment they need and the compensation you deserve for their vet bills and life. Your consultation is free with no obligation. Call us today!