No driver wants to hit an innocent animal while they are driving, yet accidents involving a car and an animal happen all the time. If you’re in an accident with an animal, can you hold someone liable for the damage to your car? Can the animal’s owner, if there is one, hold you liable for hurting their animal?
In most situations, animal owners cannot take legal action against a driver who hits their animal. An exception would be if the driver was breaking driving rules at the time of the accident, like speeding through a residential area. As long as you follow the rules of the road like you always should, then you shouldn’t be on the receiving end of a claim or lawsuit if you accidentally hit a pet or animal.
On the other hand, you might be able to file a claim against an animal owner. It depends on where you live and the circumstances of the accident, though.
The type of animal you hit will affect your chances to file a claim:
- Pets: A pet owner could be liable for damage to your vehicle if they let their pet run into the street unsupervised. Most counties have leash laws that don’t allow pets of any sort to be off a leash when in public, i.e., on the sidewalk and in the road. However, damage to a vehicle in a pet-related accident is usually minimum, so filing a claim might not be something that is worth pursuing.
- Livestock: Agricultural property owners can be held liable for accidents involving livestock like cows, sheep, horses, etc. A key component in such cases is often whether or not the agricultural property should have had a perimeter fence to keep the livestock animals off the road. If a fence should have been in place or was damaged, and you hit an animal that wandered off the property, then you should track down the property owner to get their insurance information. If no fence was required, then it will be more difficult to sue them for compensation because you could share some liability for not driving more cautiously with animals around.
- Wild animals: There is no one to blame when a wild animal wanders into the road and causes a car accident. You can’t exactly sue Mother Nature for allowing an elk to stroll across the street. However, you might be able to use your auto insurance policy to collect some damages after a deductible. Collision coverage, for example, can sometimes be used for random damage to your vehicle, such as damage caused by a wild or unowned animal. Also, if you hit a deer or another large wild animal, then you should report the accident to the local sheriff’s station, which might keep records of animal accidents. Those records are given to the municipal department of transportation to help determine where animal crossing warning signs should be placed around the county or city.