Car accidents involving animals can be upsetting. Most of us do our best to avoid hitting animals with our cars, but sometimes the dreaded happens. Unfortunately, these types of car accidents can be quite serious for all involved.
What to do if you hit an animal
Wildlife vehicle accidents result in more than 200 human fatalities and 29,000 human injuries each year in the United States and cause over a billion dollars in property damage. And sadly, the number of drivers crashing into animals—deer are by far the most common victims, but there are also coyotes, bears, elk, mountain lions, and wild pigs—are up in California. A recent study counted 7,831 accidents on highways and major roads, an increase of more than 2,000 over the previous year. What’s more, experts suggest that these figures are all probably underestimates, as many people don’t report hitting animals and others swerve to avoid them, getting in a car accident with another vehicle, but failing to mention wildlife as the initial cause.
Who is at fault if you hit an animal?
Important legal questions arise in relation to animal-vehicle crashes, including who is liable, who pays, and what should be done in accordance with the law. If you hit a deer, for example, and cause a multi-car pile up, are you at fault? In some cases, the responsible party may be the animal’s owner, the party negligent in taking care of the animal or its safekeeping, or if the animal has been abandoned or neglected, your auto insurance company and/or a government agency where the incident took place.
- Collisions with wildlife: Under California law, drivers must purchase the minimum requirements for bodily injury liability ($15,000/person, $30,000/accident) and property damage liability ($5,000). Your bodily injury coverage will likely pay for any physical injuries sustained by you or your passenger. Comprehensive coverage is an additional purchase that includes property damage caused by animals. If you do not have comprehensive coverage, you have to pay for the damage yourself.
- Collisions with pets or livestock: In car accidents involving pet or livestock owners, the owners are generally held liable for failing to adequately leash, enclose, or otherwise restrain their animals, as noted above. The pet or livestock owner is either personally liable to pay for your injuries and damages or, in some cases, you may access their homeowner’s insurance coverage. If the owner cannot be located, your personal injury and comprehensive car insurance coverage should pay for the damage caused.
If you hit a horse or other large animal, it is important that you contact the authorities to report the incident and get information about appropriate steps for the safety of other drivers.
For a free, no obligation consultation about a car accident involving an animal and who must pay for damages, contact the experienced accident attorneys at Ghozland Law Firm today.