Can I Sue Google If My Dog Gets Run Over?

Amid speculation by some that Google driverless vehicles might just bankrupt personal injury attorneys, others are saying, “Hey, not so fast.” More and more, we are stories of politicians forced wage increases for fast-food workers. And politicians trying to get re-elected offering voters unearned wage increases, while taking money from the automated machine industry. And of curse we see shops close up, and a backlash by employers.

Outsourcing Jobs and Drivers

Because of these laws, employers outsource jobs to business-friendly countries that honor job creators. Another reaction for many service businesses, is employers turning to automated equipment and technology. And all of this is just to avoid the ever-increasing government encroachment. After all, most businesses are feast or famine ventures.

Even Google, heavily invested in the Democrat party, seems to be leading the way to replace workers with technology. Good or bad, it’s happening. but why is that? Look at it as a business owner. You have workers, and you pay them what they AGREED on. But then they form unions and demand more benefits.

Or look at teenaged interns and externs. They treat people with contempt who may help give them a chance to gain work experience. So here you are offering an internship, and they go ahead and sue you for such an employment law claim. And yes, the new future for America is technology. Spending a large part of your life on a perfect college campus now gets you a job as one of the professionally unemployed.

Kiasaki Said It?

Robert Kiasaki explained this years ago. but it appears that the need for re-election votes is fueling the decline of the employer, employee relationships at a faster rate than technology are probably ready for.

So naturally, entrepreneurs are seeking to achieve what remains of the American Dream. And they must come up with creative ways of surviving. One example is in grocery store self-checkouts. Cashiers are expensive when compared to grocers, for example. But consumers like me find self-checkout to be a hassle.

So we stand in line to have a human cashier help us. Naturally, these self checkers remain unused in some cases. Of course, once the technology is improved, the goods will be automatically charged when you place them in your shopping cart. Afterward, the human cashier will be unemployed. In other words, once you remove the hassle factor from technological advances, shoppers won’t miss the human cashier anymore.

Driverless Vehicles?

In my last article dealing with Google’s new driverless vehicles, I discussed the potential driverless vehicle downside to PI attorneys. And I also talked about the car accident field of PI law in general. But I went into the fact that Google and other companies perhaps could even shield themselves from legal liability by forming partnerships with the government, similar to the Metrolink and Metro Rail systems.

Then, a few weeks ago, I ran across another tragic story involving a Google driverless vehicle running over and killing a dog. So that really got me thinking about my kids, especially small toddlers, too small or low to the ground. Because of their smaller size, they are not always picked up by the current sensing technology.

In any event, this gives me a chance to discuss California law as it relates to the negligent killing of a family pet, using this latest and strange example of what seems to be coming our way with technological advances. The facts relate that Google is investigating itself over a “Street View Car” that ran over a doggy in Chile. Mapping the world is one of Google’s special features that other search engines and mapmakers do not have. In this case, images from a Street View car in Chile shows what appears to be a camera carrying vehicle running over a dog and leaving it for dead.

The scene can be watched shot by shot on Google Maps by following the Meza Bell 2815. The dog appears to be walking in front of the car. And suddenly, the rear-facing camera shows the canine lying on the road without movement. Even following the zoom view back as far as it can go, the dog still does not get up off the roadway. Upon closer inspection, in one image, the dog can be seen moving. But he’s not getting up. So this means it could either be severely injured or lying on the pavement for enjoyment. The other glaring issue here is a person in the image who does not rush to the canine. But this may mean one of two things.

Did Google Do It?

Either the dog was not hit, or it is in an area where there is a large population of stray dogs. Hence, dogs getting run over there may not be unusual. Google said it’s investigating the images of the camera vehicle and dog. They said they have guidelines in place to protect people and animals while mapping locations around the world.

The search engine company stated this type of alleged incident is not uncommon. January of last year, a camera vehicle was accused of hitting a donkey in Botswana when images of the Street View showed the donkey walking alongside the vehicle and then lying on the ground. Google proved the images were not what they appeared to be, and it was not a hit and run incident. Go here to view some more of the disturbing pictures.

Who Do I Sue If Google Runs Over My Pet?

Assuming arguendo the incident took place in California, and proof showed a Google Driverless Vehicle killed your family dog or cat, then what? Assuming no government defendants, other liable parties may include Google. But others may also be at fault, such as manufacturers, producers of car and sensing equipment, and any other party in the chain of commerce that brought the vehicle to the end-user. If there was an occupant in the car with the ability to control or co-pilot the car, then the occupant is also a potential defendant for all foreseeable damages.

What Kind of Damages Can I Get If Google Runs Over My Animal in California?

For purposes of this discussion, we will limit this discourse to California law, since I am only licensed to practice in this state. Under California law, an animal is considered property, so it is treated as “economic” damages ONLY. This means you can recover the costs of the economic losses associated with the animal. Some cases involving the loss of an animal can be quite significant.

A prize horse run over by a Google car could result in millions of dollars in economic losses for the market replacement value. It could turn out that the age, breed, training, purchase price, characteristic, or another trait, gave it some extra-ordinary value. We can imagine a specially trained guard, seeing eye. Maybe its a show dog that does AKC shows? So yes, these would have special value, and they do. But again, this is economic value, not sentimental value. Mostly, it remains pretty intangible when it comes to “property.”

Work Donkey Example

A donkey being run over by a driver-less vehicle, is probably worth very little. If you use the donkey for work, you recover the replacement value of the donkey. Also, you’d be awarded money for lost work arguably, as damages. In most of the common cases, cars run over stray, or family dogs and cats. Many drivers swerve to avoid animals crossing the road. And with good reason, California criminal statutes seek to prosecute people that violate the rights of animals. And some prosecutorial agencies, such as the City of Los Angeles, have their own “Animal Protection Units.”

So the Vehicle Code also comes into play here. And it seeks to maintain safe driving for the conditions presented on the road. But sometimes not swerving could be animal abuse. Still other times, not swerving could result in a negligent chain collision. If, for example, swerving could cause a vehicle pile-up, the Vehicle Code expects you to act reasonably. Otherwise, drivers become civilly liable.

In other words, the driver is expected to be mindful of all of this. And this is because we are all “presumed to know the law.” Also, damages can come in the form of a probation agreement and court order to pay as part of probation. But these damages are in the form of “restitution.” These are typically what we see in DUI accident cases. So a drunk driver has to pay back the crash victims or face “working it off” in jail.

Sentimental Damages

Other damages you can seek as a grieving victim could be the veterinarian bills, for example. In some California jurisdictions, we have even seen awards that appear to be for “sentimental,” or peculiar value. And this is something that most pet-owning victims “really” want. In one unique case, a California jury found in favor of the plaintiff.

Ten Dollar Dog With a $30,000 Value?

And it found that the dog was worth ten dollars “replacement” value. But clearly, the jury was moved and wanted to find a way to send a message of sympathy. So, in that case, the trier of fact awarded $30,000 more for the “special value” of the dog. California law allows such an award if an item has “peculiar value” to the owner. But the person who harmed it has to know that fact in advance. But each case is different, and the cause of the death of the dog was due to veterinary malpractice.

What Special Duty?

But unless you can show some special duty, as above it is doubtful you’ll prevail. Of special interest, punitive damages and emotional distress are the newer forms of damages creative lawyers are testing. They seek to increase the value of these cases. Insurance companies and house counsel for companies like Google won’t like it if they succeed.

After all, the big companies presently argue most of these cases are at the low end of the value spectrum. And most courts probably agree.

Risk of Jamming the Courts

Also, it remains foreseeable these cases could clog our already underfunded courts. So I doubt these cases are the new thing, at least not yet.

If this technology is rushed, I can see not only dog and cat cases, but those involving children. So for now, the race to replace humans with machines has many unintended consequences.

When the Governments Says “We Are Here To Help.”

And the government is unwittingly encouraging the mass exodus to machines and technology. And the fallout could mean many lawsuits and claims against companies like Google, or Amazon, Imagine head injury cases against Amazon.

For example, delivery drones crashing onto your head, etc. So naturally, injury lawyers may cash in on these cases. Also, Google probably doesn’t want massive amounts of small claims actions. However, these are sure to occur should the driverless vehicle be a safety flop.

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