What Legal Options Do I Have if I Hit an Animal with my Car?
No one ever wants to hit an animal with their car. Unfortunately, sometimes it is unavoidable, especially at night or when deer or other animals run out in front of your car with little warning.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are an estimated 1.5 million collisions between vehicles and large animals every year, costing drivers thousands of dollars in property and/or personal injury damages.
If you or a loved one were involved in an auto accident with an animal, you may be able to seek compensation. Call the New Jersey car accident attorneys at the Lynch Law Firm, PC to discuss your claim and see what options you may have.
What to do After Hitting an Animal with Your Vehicle
The first thing you should do after hitting an animal is pull over onto the shoulder and stop, if possible. For your safety, do not approach the animal. If the animal is still alive it may be defensive and could lash out aggressively causing serious injury.
Call the police to report the accident. The police officer who arrives will be able to help with a few things:
- Filling out a police report, which will help with your insurance claim.
- Gathering evidence
- Contacting the proper authorities to dispose of the animal carcass or take possession of the animal to provide appropriate veterinary care
- Blocking or diverting surrounding traffic to avoid another accident
You should also take photos of the scene if it is safe to do so, as this can help with your insurance claim.
If you suffered personal injuries and property damage, you should consider contacting an experienced attorney who may be able to provide legal guidance through the insurance claims process.
What Will My Insurance Cover?
As New Jersey is a no-fault state, you should be able to seek compensation for your injuries through your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This provides compensation for injuries no matter who is at fault for a crash.
However, PIP coverage does not pay for property damage. In an accident with another driver, you would generally file a claim against the other driver’s property damage liability coverage. If you chose to buy collision coverage in your policy, you may also be able to file a claim against that coverage.
However, accidents involving an animal fall under comprehensive coverage, not collision coverage. Comprehensive insurance covers vehicle damage from things like theft, vandalism, flooding, fires and collisions with animals.
Luckily, most insurance companies consider vehicle accidents with wildlife an unavoidable accident and will not fault you for the crash, so your rates will most likely not increase if you file a claim.
What if the Animal I Hit Belongs to Someone?
If you happen to hit a pet dog or cat, or perhaps even horse or cattle that belongs to someone, you may be eligible for compensation, if the crash was due to the owner’s negligence.
Take this scenario as an example: You are driving through a neighborhood when a dog dashes in front of your car and you are unable to stop in time to avoid hitting it. Now, your vehicle is damaged as a result of the accident. If the dog’s owner did not have the dog on a leash, he or she could be found liable for the damage to your vehicle.
Safety Tips to Avoid Hitting Animals on the Road
Animal collisions are sometimes unavoidable. However, there are some precautions you can take to avoid hitting an animal with your vehicle:
- Avoid distracted driving
- Follow wildlife crossing area guidelines such as speed reduction
- Slow down in residential neighborhoods
- Use your high beams if it is too dark and there are no other vehicles around
If you get into a situation where you are unable to avoid hitting the animal, do not swerve. Swerving into oncoming traffic or off the roadway may be more dangerous than hitting the animal.
Hitting a large animal such as a moose, deer or elk may cause it to go through your windshield, so if you have enough time before the collision, experts say it is best to try and duck away from the windshield. Antlers could be lethal if they hit you at a high enough speed.
Call Today for a Free Consultation
If you need help after an accident, contact Lynch Law Firm, PC to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. We have a team of attorneys who have experience with thousands of injury claims.
Our legal team works on a contingency fee basis, meaning we do not get paid unless you receive compensation. That means there is no risk to you in contacting us.
Call us 24/7 at (800) 518-0508 .