As you’re driving down the street, it may make you smile to see a dog in a car next to you delightedly sticking its head out the window, enjoying the breeze and the sights. However, you won’t be smiling for long if the other car swerves and crashes into yours because the dog has unexpectedly jumped into the driver’s lap. If such an accident occurs, who would be at fault?
Driving with an Unrestrained Animal is Distracted Driving
While New Hampshire law requires dogs in an open part of a vehicle to be restrained (such as in the back of a pickup truck), it does not require dogs or other animals to be secured inside a motor vehicle. However, there’s no question that driving with an unrestrained animal can be as distracting as texting or fiddling with the radio. You can be distracted in any number of ways, including if:
• your pet needs to be physically restrained
• your pet startles you by barking or making another unexpected sound
• your pet gets near the pedals or controls
• your pet becomes aggressive or playful with you or another passenger
• you cuddle, feed, pet, or photograph the animal while driving
These actions and others can cause you to take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or simply stop paying attention to your surroundings. Even a second or two of inattention may cause a collision.
Reckless or Negligent Driving in New Hampshire
Although it is not illegal to have an unrestrained animal inside a vehicle in New Hampshire, the driver may be nonetheless held responsible if an animal causes an accident. New Hampshire forbids driving negligently or recklessly.
A negligent driver is someone who drives in a manner that endangers people or property and who should have been aware of the danger but wasn’t. A reckless driver is a person who knowingly drives in a way that poses a “substantial and unjustifiable” risk to others. A court may find a driver who crashed after being distracted by an unrestrained animal in their car to be a negligent or reckless driver. If so, they may be liable for injuries or damage arising from the crash.
Tenn And Tenn, P.A., Personal Injury Attorneys
If you’ve suffered injuries in a car crash due to an unrestrained animal in a vehicle, contact the experienced attorneys at Tenn And Tenn, P.A. We help people the rights of victims all over the state: Manchester, Concord, Nashua, Bedford, Derry, and beyond. Call 1-888-511-1010 for your free consultation today, or reach out online for a case evaluation.