Most of us have a general understanding of what to do after getting into an accident with another vehicle. It may be a different story, however, when it comes to car accidents caused by animals. Given the fact that car accidents involving animals aren’t nearly as common as car accidents involving other vehicles, many people have no idea how to proceed following a collision with an animal. In this article, we explain how to handle a car accident caused by an animal on the road. If you’ve been involved in an accident involving an animal on the road and have suffered injuries, please contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible for guidance.
There are three primary types of car accidents involving animals on the road in California:
Car accidents caused by wild animals: Unfortunately, when it comes to car crashes caused by wild animals, drivers are left with little legal recourse. Insurance companies usually only cover the costs of damage caused by wild animals if the driver carries comprehensive car insurance. However, this type of car insurance is not included in the liability insurance California drivers are required to carry by law, so not all drivers spend the extra money to purchase this coverage.
Car accidents caused by domesticated animals: When a car accident is caused by someone’s pet, the owner of the animal can be found at fault for the accident. In California, pet owners are required by law to remain in control of their animals at all times, particularly when not on the owner’s property.
Car accidents caused by livestock: Car accidents caused by livestock are far more common than you may think. Such accidents often result in serious property damage and injuries, as some livestock, such as cattle, can weigh well over 1,000 pounds. Interestingly, although the owner may be found liable for an accident caused by livestock on the road, language exists in the California Food and Agriculture Code allowing an owner to contest such a decision. Specifically, pursuant to the code, a livestock owner can be found negligent for allowing livestock to escape if there were fences, buildings, or sidewalks separating the roadway from the livestock owner’s property. However, another section of the code states that a livestock owner will not automatically be assumed to be negligent or at fault for a collision caused by his or her animals. Livestock owners sometimes successfully use this language to avoid liability for accidents caused by their animals.
Regardless of the type of animal involved, one thing is certain: if you’ve been involved in an auto accident involving an animal, you should immediately contact an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance.
Although car accidents involving animals happen suddenly and without warning, there are several steps drivers can take to reduce their odds of being involved in one, including:
Stay alert: When on the road, always pay attention to your surroundings. In addition to watching the road, you should occasionally scan the grass and trees along the sides of the road for animals. Also, when possible, you should use your high beams at night to increase visibility except when there is oncoming traffic.
Keep your distance: Although refraining from tailgating the car in front of you is always a good idea while driving, it also applies to the avoidance of animal-related accidents. By keeping at least two car lengths between you and other vehicles, you’ll have more room to brake should an animal run into the street.
Don’t swerve: If an animal jumps in front of your vehicle, try not to swerve. By swerving out of your lane, you could potentially make a bad situation far worse. Instead, as we discuss below, hit the brakes to slow down.
Brake: Rather than attempt to swerve out of the way of a wild animal in the road, you should brake. In an ideal situation, the animal will have enough time to get out of your way. If not, however, you’re far better off colliding with the animal than swerving into another vehicle.
Although avoidance is the best-case scenario, some car accidents involving animals are unavoidable. So, if you are ever involved in a car accident caused by an animal on the road, you should take the following steps, many of which should be taken in any type of car accident:
Move your vehicle to a safe location: Immediately following your accident, you should put your hazard lights on and attempt to relocate your vehicle to a safe location.
Seek medical attention: After ensuring that you are safely out of the way of passing traffic, you should seek immediate medical attention. You can ensure that you receive appropriate medical care by calling the police after your accident and alerting them to any injuries you may have sustained. In addition, if the animal was injured in the accident, you should report this information as well.
Obtain a police report: The officer who responds to the scene of the accident will complete a police report. You should obtain a copy of this report, especially if there is property damage or you have sustained injuries.
Stay away from the injured animal: Although it may be tempting to try to help the injured animal, you should keep your distance. Remember, an injured animal can be a dangerous animal.
Take pictures: If you’re able to, you should take pictures and videos of the accident scene, including any property damage.
Gather information: If there were any witnesses to the accident, you should record their names and contact information. In addition, you should write down as many details as possible regarding the accident as soon as you can.
Contact a car accident lawyer: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should contact an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible following a car accident involving an animal in California. At Glotzer & Leib, LLP, we know what it takes to help you recover following a car accident. When you reach out to us for help, attorney Joshua Glotzer will guide you through the legal process to ensure that you have the best possible chance at obtaining compensation for your injuries. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
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