Wildlife Car Crashes: Who May Be Liable?
When wild or domestic animals stray or dart into a roadway the situation could be so unexpected it could cause a crash. Sometimes a driver in that situation may manage to avoid hitting the animal in the road but hit another vehicle or object instead. After being involved in a domestic or wildlife car crash, drivers may wonder how or if they can recover compensation. There may be extensive vehicle damage and severe injuries, especially if the animal was a deer or something larger. Injured victims may also have to deal with a lengthy recovery period and mounting medical bills. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, your auto insurance coverage and the type of animal involved, you could have legal options for seeking compensation. Below, our Las Vegas car crash attorneys discuss collisions involving an animal, including who may be liable if one happens.
Animal and Wildlife Car Crashes in NevadaWildlife crashes in the U.S. cause hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and billions in property damages every year. In Nevada alone, there are hundreds of these collisions each year. Many of these wildlife crashes involve deer, elk and other larger animals, resulting in damages that annually cost taxpayers $20 million in damages, on average.
How Nevada is Mitigating the ProblemNevada has been taking steps to help reduce the number of wildlife crashes, as well as the loss of both human and animal life. One thing that seems to be working is the creation of overpass and underpass structures in high-risk areas of Nevada. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, these structures are 85 to 95 percent effective. They work by making a path for animals to cross over or under busy areas without ever entering the roadway.
Who Could Be Liable for a Domestic or Wildlife Car Crash?Determining liability for a crash involving a domestic or wild animal comes down to circumstances. Whether or not you have a viable claim may also depend on the type and amount of insurance you carry. Common ways animal-vehicle collisions occur include:
- Wild animal vs vehicle crashes: Unfortunately, if you hit a wild animal, there is no owner to seek a claim against. If you have first-party coverage in your auto insurance, you may be able to use it to pay for your medical bills. Comprehensive insurance coverage, which is optional in Nevada, may also help. Comprehensive insurance provides coverage for your vehicle if it gets damaged by something other than a vehicle. If you carry this coverage, you may be able to file a claim for property damages through your policy.
- Domestic animal vs vehicle collisions: These are also common, especially in more residential areas. If the animal darted out into the road suddenly, you may have a claim against the homeowner’s insurance of the animal’s owner.
- Crashes caused by swerving to avoid an animal: Experts do not generally recommend swerving to avoid hitting an animal. Drivers who do this often lose control of their vehicle and could end up in the lane of oncoming traffic or sideswiping a vehicle in the next lane. You could also be assessed with some liability, even though you did not cause the animal to run into the road. Depending on other factors involved, however, you may still have a claim against the other driver or under your own collision coverage.
- Hitting an object instead of the animal: Some drivers may run off the road while attempting to miss the animal and hit a guardrail or other object instead. In this situation, you may be able to seek compensation under your own collision insurance.
How Can You Avoid Being Hitting an Animal in the Road?It may not be possible to avoid every crash involving an animal in the road. However, these preventative measures may help you to greatly reduce the risk of it happening:
- Remain alert and continually scan both sides of the roadway for deer and other wild animals.
- Remember that animals travel in groups, so if you see one animal, others may be nearby.
- Be on the lookout in high-risk areas where you see wildlife warning signs posted.
- Avoid driving at dawn or dusk when it is more likely for animals to be out.
- Always wear your seatbelt to help prevent you from being ejected if you must stop suddenly.
- Obey traffic laws, including road signs, speed limits and traffic signals.
- Slow down to help lower the chance of hitting an animal.
- Be aware of other traffic around you that may or may not be watching for animals.
- Do not follow other vehicles too closely.
- Use your high beam lights to help improve your view of the road at night.
- Do not attempt to drive in high-risk areas when you are drowsy, distracted or impaired.
What if You Cannot Avoid Hitting an Animal?If you are unable to avoid hitting an animal, you should take steps to try to maintain control of your vehicle, including:
- Applying brakes: Braking can help you to reduce the impact of the crash.
- Honk your horn: If the vehicle is coming from the right side of the road, turn in that direction and honk your horn to encourage the animal to move out of your way.
- Avoid swerving or over-turning: While this may seem the natural thing to do to avoid the impact, it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle.