Do I have an injury claim if I hit a deer with my car?
Approximately 1.5 million deer live wild in Britain and whilst many may think that deer are confined to the forests and countryside, the growth of city parks and green spaces means that increasing numbers of deer are now found closer to major urban areas and roads.
It’s not uncommon to see deer on the embankments of motorways and there is a higher risk in areas which travel through, or near to, woodland.
Figures from Scottish Natural Heritage estimate that there are 9,000 road collisions involving deer each year in Scotland and 65 of these will result in human injury: the higher the traffic speed, the more serious the collision.
With an adult roe deer weighing between 10-35kg, the UK wide cost of damage to vehicles alone is believed to be around £17 million.
There is a higher risk of collisions between dusk and dawn when deer are more active. As these times can also coincide with key commuting hours, road users may find themselves encountering deer.
Deer are more common on the roads from May to June, when young deer are moving to find new territory, and from October to December, as they will be on the move for the autumn mating season.
Will I have a claim for personal injury if I hit a deer with my car?
A deer is a wild animal, so it is unlikely that you will be able to claim compensation if you are involved in a collision. As deer are not owned by anyone, there is no owner to seek compensation from.
You would be unlikely to succeed in a claim, as it would be difficult to prove that the deer was on the road due to someone else’s negligence.
It is likely that you will need to accept your own losses.
What to do when faced with a deer on the road?
If you see deer warning signs, you should stay alert whilst driving. These signs will be marked by either a red warning triangle, or electronic variable messaging signs.
If there is no oncoming traffic after dark, use your full beam headlights. These should give you advance warning of any wildlife on the road. If you do see an animal, then dip your lights, otherwise the animal may freeze in place.
If a collision is inevitable, do not swerve to avoid the deer. In doing so, you could cause a more serious accident with oncoming traffic or your vehicle may hit a tree or go into a ditch. You should also be cautious if braking sharply. Check first if it is safe to do so and that you are not at risk of a collision with traffic behind you.
Deer can appear suddenly on the road and if you see one deer, you should exercise caution, as there may be others which are trying to cross. According to the British Deer Society, deer will more often move in groups than alone.
What should I do if I hit a deer?
Your first thought must be for your own safety. If you are injured, call for help. If you are blocking the road, then warn other drivers by putting your hazard lights on.
You should report any collisions with a deer to the police, even if there is no injury or damage to you or your vehicle. The police will be able to advise you of the next steps. They can also contact the necessary services for the deer’s welfare.