One side of pet ownership that many people don’t consider when they adopt a cat or dog is the possibility that the pet will need expensive medical care during its life. Especially hard to foresee are injuries caused by someone else’s wrongful action, such as failing to control an unsafe animal or committing a deliberate act of malice. When a pet is seriously injured, filing a lawsuit to recover compensation for the resulting costs may be warranted, but bear in mind that there are limits to what a plaintiff can recover in such cases.
Nevada’s pet injury law
Nevada law provides that someone who intentionally, willfully, recklessly, or negligently injures or kills another person’s domesticated dog or cat can be held liable only for specific types of damages. Damages that are available include medical costs associated with the injury, compensation for any loss in the pet’s fair market value, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Punitive damages, such as might be available against someone who has acted especially badly, are not permitted. Nor are noneconomic damages like pain and suffering. The total compensation anyone can receive in such cases is $5,000. NRS 41.740. Owners of pets that are especially valuable should consider insuring them, both to cover the cost of vet bills and to ensure that the owner’s investment is not suddenly lost.
There are several components of NRS 41.740 that are worth keeping in mind. First, it applies only to dogs and cats, and then only those animals that are “maintained in or near the household.” It does not apply to exotic pets or horses. Second, it sets a distinct limit on how much a person can recover, which in cases of valuable pets can leave an owner less than financially whole. Third, the law provides exceptions for injuries to pets in certain circumstances: government actions in defense of public health or animal welfare, actions taken to protect livestock, and actions taken in defense of oneself or another person.
Exploring other causes of action for pet injuries
Despite the limitations on how much a plaintiff can seek in compensation for the injury to the pet itself, plaintiffs may have other causes of action that warrant consideration. For example, if the defendant injured the plaintiff’s pet because the defendant knew that it would cause the plaintiff emotional harm, the plaintiff may have a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Generally speaking such a cause of action requires more than just feeling sad about the loss of a beloved pet: the plaintiff must have suffered a sufficiently severe reaction to warrant compensation.
Nevada provides additional protections for service animals. NRS 426.810 provides that the owner of a dog or other animal who allows their pet to injure or kill a service animal is guilty of a misdemeanor. Once convicted, a defendant in such a case must compensate the owner of the service animal for vet bills, replacement cost of the service animal, and other costs incurred by the owner as a consequence of losing the service animal’s help. For example, if the owner had to hire a person to provide the help that the service animal provided, the helper’s salary will be the defendant’s responsibility.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit following an injury to your pet call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.