Cow's owner not located after wreck

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Pictured is the front passenger side of Michelle Hoffman's 2013 Ford Escape, which was totaled on Nov. 22 after she struck a cow in the roadway on Route C near the city baseball fields. With no one claiming ownership of the cow, Hoffman said she has had to file a claim for the wreck on her own insurance. Contributed photo

Vehicle owner liable for damage after hitting cow in road

A Purdy woman is being forced to claim her totaled vehicle on her own insurance after she hit a wandering cow on Route C on Nov. 22.

Michelle Hoffman, 39, of Purdy, said the owner of the cow could not be located, meaning she will have to make a claim on her own insurance for the approximately $18,000 in damages to her 2013 Ford Escape, which was totaled in the wreck near the city's baseball fields.

Hoffman said she was also told her insurance would be billed for the removal of the cow's carcass, which was removed from the scene the morning of Nov. 24.

"The cow was not marked like required, and the only two nearby farmers said it was not theirs," Hoffman said. "So, I have to claim a total loss on my car, as the state trooper said there's no way to investigate whose cow it is.

"I guess the risk of being sued outweighs the risk of being honest. I think they should have investigate more, because we could have been killed."

Hoffman, who has her 2-year-old daughter in the vehicle at the time of the wreck, said she estimated the cow weighed about 600-700 pounds.

Hoffman said she was told the Department of Conservation would bill her insurance company for the cost of cleaning up the carcass. According to Francis Skalicky, metro media specialist with the Department of Conservation, the department is not responsible for cleaning up those types of animals.

Angela Eden, senior communications specialist with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said MoDOT is who removed the animal, but it will not charge Hoffman for the work.

"Our only cost is manpower, but we clean stuff like that up all the time, and it's just part of our normal duties," she said. "Our risk management office said they would never charge a motorist for that kind of cleanup, but they would charge the owner if they could find the owner."

Cpl. John Lueckenhoff, public information and education officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said finding the owner of an unmarked cow is not easy.

"There's not much we can do if it does not have ear markings or a branding and no one claims it," he said. "This is the same struggle I've dealt with for more than 20 years, and we are not going to start drawing blood from cows to look for a DNA match."

Hoffman, who suffered minor injuries in the wreck, said in the end, she's just looking for an apology.

"We do not want to file a lawsuit," she said. "We honestly want an apology for the accident. A simple, 'I'm sorry, I didn't realize my cow got out. I hope you are OK.' In the meantime, we were blessed to have full coverage on the car we just purchased two months ago. However, our insurance rates will skyrocket because of the lack of detail and a formal investigation into this issue.

"This was an accident. Yes, absolutely I believe it was, but it was no wild animal such as a deer, bobcat or jaguar that was in the road. This cow belonged to someone. Had the roles been reversed, I would be held liable. So, why aren't the Highway Patrol or Barry County Sheriff's Office holding to the same standard to the owner?"

Hoffman said she has lived in Barry County almost her entire life and has been a resident of Purdy for the last three years.

"Other than the Purdy Fire Department and first responders, Barry County ambulance service, a few people in town who came to check on us and one farmer who came to see if the cow belonged to him, not one person has come forward, publicly or privately," she said. "I have never been more ashamed of being a part of the community for not speaking up about this situation and who owns the cow in question."

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