Legal Resource

What To Do When Your Companion Animal Has Been Injured or Killed

It’s wrenching to contemplate, but important to know: You may be entitled to compensation if someone harms or kills your animal family members.

This page will present answers to some common questions about filing a lawsuit if your companion animal has been injured or killed. This is not a substitute for an attorney.

How long do I have to file a court action?

Time limits to file your action are called “statutes of limitation.” The length of time varies, and will depend on a number of factors. Additionally, statutes of limitations vary, state by state.

A lawyer will best be able to help you determine how long you have to file your lawsuit.

How do I start my lawsuit and what is involved with a lawsuit?

Lawsuits involving animals are complex legal procedures. It’s likely in your best interests to hire a lawyer to represent you. Please see our resource The Legal Process In the United States: A Civil Case for more.

How much will I receive if my companion animal is killed or injured?

The amount you can receive will vary depending on a number of factors. The particular facts and circumstances of your case are important. Additionally, the law regarding compensation for a companion animal’s death or injury also varies from state to state, and is in flux.

Here are some basics:

  • By and large animals are considered “property” under the law. This means that in many cases, you are limited to compensation for your animal’s “market value,” along with associated “economic damages” like veterinary bills.
  • In recognition of animals’ elevated places in our homes and lives, a growing number of states now also allow greater awards than economic damages. In these states — including Tennessee, Illinois and New York — you may also be able to receive non-economic and punitive damages in some cases, such as if the person who harmed your animal did so on purpose.
  • Damages relating to emotional distress are sometimes available as well.

Your lawyer can best advise you as to the law in your state regarding compensation for an injured or killed companion animal.


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