Like A Good Neighbor? State Farm Charges Family for Bumper of Car that Killed Their Dog

Kim Flemming thought that losing Jake, her 12-year-old yellow Labrador, in Aurora, Ontario was bad enough. That was until she received a letter from State Farm Insurance demanding that she pay for the dented bumper on the car that killed Jake.

Flemming had let Jake out when she returned home. He dashed into the road and was hit. He died in her arms.

Two months later, State Farm sent the bill for 1,732.80 Canadian dollars (1,648.95 US) stating “we are looking to you for reimbursement.”

State Farm spokesman John Bordignon insisted that this is only right and proper: “They could have made sure their dog wasn’t free on the roadway.” I suppose that would also encompass children killed by cars insured by State Farm.

Once again, why would State Farm want this bad press for less than two grand in reimbursement? It conveys that message to customers that the company is a heartless stereotype of an insurance giant. I doubt many people are reading this story and thinking “Hmmm, that sounds like a company that I would like to work with in case of any accidents.”

It appears that, whether it is a funeral or a hospital bed, “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” to give you a bill for your grief.

State Farm appears to be pushing for recovery in unconventional reimbursement claims. Recently, it pursued a dram-shop-like claim against an employer that allowed a driver access to a keg before an accident, here. That, however, is more defensible than pursuing families for the damage caused in the killing of their pets.

In the meantime, State Farm is suing Texas after its Department of Insurance after the agency publicized on its Web site recent rate hikes by the company, here. State Farm insists that the agency should not have revealed the increases to the public, but Texas insists that all documents submitted to the agency are treated as public information. Once again, the lawsuit shows a curious legal analysis. In the fight to keep rate hikes from the public, the company has sued to ensure millions of people learn not only that the company has significant rate hikes but does not want the public to know.

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52 thoughts on “Like A Good Neighbor? State Farm Charges Family for Bumper of Car that Killed Their Dog”

  1. Most of you seem to automatically project yourselves into the persona of the poor, suburbanite family who simply let their adoring new puppy out to pee.

    Just for a minute, put yourself in the driver’s seat of that car. How would you feel about the family when you saw the stupid dog loping ignorantly out in front of your car, then heard the sickening thud and crunch of plastic and metal before you had time to react? Would you feel sorry for them in that moment, or be inclined to strangle them for their carelessness?

    If my dog ran out into the road and caused an accident, I would EXPECT to get a repair bill. My homeowners insurance has provisions for just this sort of thing. Bottom line here is that a completely innocent party is out a bumper because of the negligence of another party. Somebody has to pay for it.

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  3. Although unpopular, I must side with the State Farm Insurance on this specific case.

  4. From many of the posts here, it seems there is some demand for a “nice” insurance company. One that doesn’t stick to cold ideas like negligence, or who’s legally responsible for anything, but does the “nice” thing. Maybe pays for the bumper, a new dog and some flowers. How much more would you pay to know that your company was “nice”?

  5. I think there are two valid sides to this one. Sure, its bad publicity to ask for the money from the dog owner. But its also poor pet ownership to let that dog run into the road. Why should Allstate, and by extension all of its customers, pay out for someone else’s negligence? As a pet lover myself, I’m sympathetic about the owner’s loss. Its terrible to lose a pet, and even worse when you are the one responsible for its death, I’m sure. Nonetheless, I still believe it is her personal responsibility to control her dog, so she should pay the price, including the financial liability, for her actions.

    What if the driver of the car was with a small child who witnessed the death of that dog and was traumatized? What if that dog owner’s actions led to a swerve that caused someone else’s child to be hit, or some other horrible outcome? I do understand the point of asking her to pay for this. And although in hindsight, the negative publicity isn’t worth the money, I’m sure Allstate didn’t anticipate a backlash. They probably assumed that the party at fault would pay the bill, as in any other accident, regardless of other personal losses.

  6. Winnitah Siminneli:

    You need a lawyer. Check with your local bar association or the lawyer referral service in your area. If you were in the crosswalk when this happened, you may own Allstate given your injuries.

  7. Allstate tried to charge me $993 for the windshield that I broke with my back when somebody hit me, in the crosswalk. My leg was broken and I had to have an emergency surgery, I’ll have a titanium rod in my left leg for the rest of my life. And Allstate sent the bill for the windshield directly to a collection agency. So I was quite suddenly $993 in debt. And I’m a minor.

    Allsnake, are you in good fangs?

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  9. If I hit the dog I would feel terrible. But how am I with little money going to replace my bumper? The owner should of had the dog leashed. And if it was a kid the parents would probably be looking at criminal charges.

  10. Don’t forget that our laws are made and remade to protect the people, then changed to protect big business that contributes heavily to the politicians campaign funds then changed again to garner votes for politicians who are lagging in popularity. The fact is that it is reasonable that your dog will squeeze out the door a few times and nothing can stop that. It is not likely that State farm could win against the dog owner and if they did the legal costs would far out weigh the $1600 cost of the bumper. It is more likely that State Farm sent out a form letter to bully the dog owner into paying the $1600 with no intention on following up in court. Certainely the bad publicity has cost them so much more. Consider this; If State Farm loses only one potential costomer in each of the U.S.’s 35,000 plus towns at an average of $2,000 per costomer per year they have lost a potential $70,000,000 per year. Law has very little to do with operating a successful business, popularity is the only law that matters here.

  11. While this was a terrible PR move for State Farm, this was a legitimate subrogation issue which people have explained previously.
    And I don’t at all agree with the comparison of dog to child people have been making. I don’t care how much you love your dog, a dog is not a child and the law would never view these two as similar at all.

  12. You did not take into account the laws in that area. I doubt that State Farm has done anything that any other insurance company has done in the past. In most areas breaking for animals is not permitted. My only guess is that the owner is legally liable for their animal in this area. They won’t chase $2,000 for very long.
    The Texas issue has been ongoing. The reason that state farm is taking the government to court is because they released detailed information that compromises the company’s competitive edge.
    Be careful where you get your news people.

  13. Welcome to the insurance laws in the Great North Strong & Free. No fault insurance dictates this action. Essentially the Insurance Co. of the party deemed 100% not responsible ( for the accident )pays out the initial costs for repairs, any treatments needed for injuries etc., and then charges those costs to the Insurance Co. of / or the individual directly ( if there isn’t a 2nd insurance Co. )who is 100% responsible for an accident. State Farm is not the only insurance Co. who would take this action, all insurance Co.’s in Ontario would have to take the same action. FYI…..$1600.00 for a new bumper in Ontario is the going rate!!

  14. They should ask for the read out of the computer in the car that hit their dog..

    This will tell them if this driver was going too fast, even 1 mile over the speed limit..!

    Always remember that these computers record all of this and you can demand or subpoena that info in a case, or tort claim..

    If I’m wrong Professor Turley please correct me..

  15. This is real simple. The adjuster checked his claims manual and decided there was no reason to treat this as anything other than a routine subrogation issue. Insurance policies are governed by contract law. There is no liability exception under contract law for compassionate distinctions. Bad PR: yes. Bad law: no.

  16. Rusty,

    Not all states allow indemnification such as an accident like this. Each state as well as the Canadian provinces have there own unique set of laws on the book.

  17. I guess I dont’ fall into the category of “bleeding heart”.

    If not for the negligence of the dog owner, the insured would not have had a damaged bumper. Neither the insured or the insurer should incur a loss because of the dog owner’s negligence.

    I’m troubled by a Professor of Constitutional Law appealing to emotions in lieu of well-settled law. Maybe the owner of a new puppy should accept more personal responsibility.

  18. Just want to let you all know how much I appreciate the civilized tone of most of the comments here.

    I am disappointed by State Farm’s attempt to collect from the owner of the dog. It is at best petty, and at worst, as others have said, bad business.

    It truly does beg the question that if it were a child instead of a dog, would the insurance company send the bereaved parents a bill?

    Anyway, thanks again for the civility. It seems rare in online comment forums such as this.

  19. Darfur:

    State Farm sucks I dropped them years ago. I have Nation Wide now and they have treated me very fairly.

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