Animals in the road

Rural road

Where do you stand on making a claim if you have an accident involving an animal?  Well, that depends…

In any situation, you will be asked whether you were paying attention, and if not, would you have been able to avoid the collision if you had been paying proper attention? Speed is a relevant factor when consider whether there is liability, and the area where the accident happened is important. Was the area known for having wildlife on the road, and should you have been driving more carefully on account of that known risk?  If there is, for example, a row of sheep escaped from a field, you require to modify your speed. Slow right down to walking pace, or stop if necessary.

Deer could be causing as many as 74,000 car accidents in Britain every year, according to the latest research. If it was a deer or other wild animal that caused the accident and you swerved to avoid it then there will likely be no-one against whom a claim can be directed. Because a wild animal has no owner and no one responsible for keeping it under control, then there will be no one to claim against. You would require to bear your own losses, and you would unlikely succeed in a claim. The Highway Code states that you should drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear – rounding a bend and being faced with a deer in the road is always going to be difficult. If you’re not able to safely slow and stop your bike (or car) in that distance, then chances are you’re going to have problems.

Anyone who owns livestock has a responsibility to ensure that they are contained securely and are prevented from escaping into public areas. If they escape and cause a road accident then you may have a legal right to claim against their owner. Such claims are not straight forward, and you would require to prove that containment of the animal was insufficient. You would need to prove that the owner knew, or ought to have known, that it was likely the animal would escape. Broken or ill repaired fences are a good indicator that the owner ought to have known the livestock could escape. If, however, a rambler has left a field gate open, you may struggle in proving that the owner knew the gate was open. Animals being herded should be kept under control at all times, and road users should make sure to give the herd enough room to move safely – revving engines and trying to cut through the herd is likely going to upset the animals and lead to unpredictable movements, which could in turn lead to a collision.

If an accident happens as a result of a pet running into the road, such as a large dog, then you may able to make a claim against the owner. Again you have to prove that they failed in their responsibility to control the animal. Sometime, a house owner will be insured for damage caused by their pet through their policy of household insurance or pet insurance. Unfortunately, not everyone will have household insurance, and it is necessary to look at the prospects of recovering damages from an individual. Sometimes even the best cases on liability are simply not viable, where there is no insurance in place and if the individual concerned has no assets.

What to do if you hit an animal

Firstly, make sure you are safe. If you are injured, summon medical assistance. If you are uninjured, then you should see whether you are able to assist the animal. If the animal is large, do not attempt to move it. If it's obstructing the road, put your hazard lights on and warn other drivers. You should contact the police to report the accident and they will give you guidance.  If you can, have a look for an identity tag, to see if you can contact the owner. If your accident has involved livestock such as sheep, cattle or horses, you should also call the police. We would recommend that you stay with the animal until further assistance arrives, to help prevent further accidents. Bear in mind, however, that your own safety is paramount. Wild animals, if wounded, can be aggressive, so take care.

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