A 100-pound bullmastiff puppy that jumped around inside a car and distracted its owner who was driving the car, caused a crash in Santa Ana the night of September 29, 2015.
According to a news report in The Orange County Register, police arrived at the scene to find a car that had rolled over and was on fire in the 1200 block of West Memory Lane.
They found a man and his 8-month-old dog sitting on the sidewalk after being pulled out of the car by bystanders.
Officials said they soon learned that the car accident was the puppy’s fault. The dog jumped from the rear seat to the front seat, pushing the driver.
The driver lost control of the vehicle and hit the center median. The car overturned and caught fire.
Good Samaritans who saw what happened pulled the man and dog out of the burning vehicle. The driver was scraped and bleeding, but his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.
We’re relieved that the man was not seriously injured and that his dog is uninjured as well. As officials said, this is an accident that could’ve turned out a lot worse.
What the Law Says
According to California Vehicle Code Section 21700: “No person shall drive a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat such number of persons as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.”
This code applies to pets as well. And that means pets should be kept restrained when the vehicle is in motion. Not only could pets jump around and distract or push the driver, but they could also become projectiles and seriously injure the vehicle’s occupants in the event of a car crash.
Dogs can be unpredictable when they are frightened or injured. Dog owners can be held liable if they bite or attack first responders or bystanders who try to rescue them. Even in an accident, dog owners could be held liable under the strict liability dog bite statute in California where dog owners are responsible for the injuries their pets cause.
If you cause an accident because your dog pushes or distracts you, then, you could be held financially responsible for the injuries and damages caused.
As Orange County personal injury attorneys who represent car accident and dog bite victims, our advise would be to buckle up your dog if you’re going for a drive – regardless of the distance. It’s simply not worth the risk.