Have you been hurt in a collision with an animal? As surprising as such an accident is to the motorist involved, sadly such an occurrence is not uncommon. This is especially true in a state like Maryland where much of our land is rural.
This article discusses:
- When Are Collisions with Animals Most Serious?
- What Are The Kinds of Cases That Lead to Settlements?
- Is Hitting an Animal an At-Fault Accident That Will Raise My Insurance Rates?
- Will My Insurance Company Say I’m At Fault for Hitting an Animal?
- Can Livestock Use Public Highways?
- Is There Liability When a Pet Gets Loose and Causes an Accident?
- Sample of Settlements and Jury Outcomes in These Cases
Wandering farm animals and pets, particularly on country roads, often turn into deadly roadblocks. Maryland also has the third-highest deer population in the country behind Pennsylvania and Western Virginia, making deer another potential hazard for motorists. Michigan and Texas see fewer deer but perennially rank high on the list of animal-related car accidents. Maryland ranks 13th in the nation in animal-related accidents with about 1,500 annually. The average crash with an animal results in nearly $3,000 in damages to the vehicle.
These collisions with livestock, pets, and wild animals can also be deadly. Every year in Maryland, animal-vehicle crashes cause at least one fatality and more than 200 injuries. Farm animals and wild animals can be extremely large, weighing hundreds of pounds. Direct impact with these animals can cause serious injuries and death. Sometimes even worse, to avoid direct impact, motorists may stop short or suddenly swerve. This leads to serious accidents with other vehicles. This is called secondary impact. Death and permanent debilitating injuries are often the tragic results of such accidents.
When Are Collisions with Animals Most Serious?
The following are examples of the types of accidents we see involving animals:
- Head-on collision with a large animal while traveling at a high rate of speed
- Swerving to avoid the animal and striking a tree, fence, or other rigid roadside structure
- Swerving into another lane to avoid the animal, striking another’s vehicle
- Stopping short to allow an animal to cross into the roadway and being rear-ended by another motorist.
What Are The Kinds of Cases That Lead to Settlements?
Victims in these accidents want to know what can you recover when you are injured in a car accident claim when they collide. The answer is that it depends.
Let’s talk first about the type of claim where you cannot get compensation. Car crashes with deer or other wild animals if you are the driver of the vehicle. No person or company negligently released the animal – the deer or whatever the wild animal is. You can’t sue the negligent deer. There is no one else to stand behind a claim.
Passengers are often in better shape but the claim is against the driver. The allegations typically involve speeding or failure to drive prudently in anticipation of all risks, including darting animals. Are these claims viable? It depends on the case. Keep in mind that the defendant need only be a cause of the crash, not the sole cause.
The type of viable claims are where the victim was hurt by an animal that should have been restrained. This is usually a wreck with a pet or commercial livestock. In these cases, there are viable claims against the owner of the animal for their failure to properly restrain the animal. It is their negligence that is at issue in that case.
Who Will Pay Any Settlement or Verdict for My Injuries from Hitting an Animal?
On the other hand, if the animal is a pet that was not properly restrained or kept on a leash, there is money behind a claim if the owner of the animal had homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or some other policy that would cover the loss. People are surprised at how expansive homeowners’ policies are in this regard.
Of course, if we are dealing with animals owned by a farmer or other commercial entity, there is usually insurance behind these claims. These are the best types of claims for hitting animals in the roadway and you will see that below in the settlements and verdicts. A cow is rarely on the highway without someone’s negligence for that cow’s escape.
Will Is Hitting an Animal an At-Fault Accident That Will Cause My Insurance Rates to Rise?
Whether an insurance company finds you at fault for an accident where you hit an animal depends on the facts of the case. Would a reasonable driver be able to avoid the crash? But in most animal crash cases, the insurance company is not going to find you at fault for the collision.
Can Livestock Use Public Highways?
This sounds like a silly question, right? But, the historical right to travel with livestock on public highways continues in 2021 under Md. Code Ann. Agric. § 3-502. Maryland law requires, however, that the herd must be attended to by a competent person and that warning lights must be used at night. There is even a law specific to those lights. Agric. § 3-503 mandates that front and rear attendants “shall carry a red lighted lantern from 30 minutes after sunset until sunrise to warn all persons approaching the herd so that proper precaution may be taken concerning passing the herd.”
Is There Liability When a Pet Gets Loose and Causes an Accident?
Maryland law is like to find the pet owner negligent if a dog or cat gets loose and causes a car accident? In Hammond v. Robins, a nearly 40-year-old Carroll County case is likely to be instructive to a Maryland court. In that case, a dog ran in front of two people on a tandem bicycle. The court sustained a $19,108 just verdict finding the dog’s owner responsible, ruling that all the law requires is that “the owner’s negligence be the proximate cause of the injury which could reasonably have been anticipated; it is not necessary to have foreseen the particular injury which did happen, or the exact manner in which the injury occurred.”
Verdicts and Settlements in Animal Collision Cases
The following are two examples of jury awards for victims of a collision with an animal:
- 2020, Texas: $3,170,000 Verdict. A 63-year-old struck a cow that wandered onto the road at night. He sustained a traumatic brain injury. The man experienced cognitive difficulties, memory issues, and personality changes. He could no longer work as a maritime pilot. The man alleged negligence against the cow’s owner. He claimed they knowingly allowed livestock to exit the property unattended. The man received $3,170,000.
- 2019, Virginia: $5,000,000 Settlement. A woman hit a deer. She pulled over. Two other people also pulled over to assist her. They turned on their emergency flashers. The three stood on the medium. While calling 9-1-1, another vehicle fatally struck them. The surviving families alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. They claimed they failed to maintain an appropriate lookout. This case settled for $5,000,000.
- 2019, South Carolina: $5,500 Settlement. A 39-year-old woman rode in a vehicle that struck a deer. She injured her neck and back. The woman underwent chiropractic care for two months. She alleged negligence against her driver. The woman claimed he failed to watch the road. She received a $5,500 settlement.
- 2018, New York: $23,500 Settlement. A woman was a passenger in a vehicle that hit a deer. She suffered severe injuries. The woman sustained permanent pain, disability, disfigurement, and bodily function loss. Her injuries affected her ability to work. The woman alleged negligence against her driver. She claimed she unsafely operated her vehicle. This case settled for $23,500.
- 2017, Washington: $270,000 Settlement. A 30-year-old man was a passenger in a vehicle that hit a deer. His driver pulled over. The two stood on the shoulder lane as they waited for a tow truck. The tow truck arrived and stopped behind their vehicle. Another vehicle swerved to avoid a collision. However, it hit the man. He suffered a neck fracture, a shoulder fracture, a knee tear, and a scalp laceration. The man underwent surgery on his shoulder and knee. He alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. The man claimed he failed to maintain an appropriate lookout. This case settled for $270,000.
Getting a Lawyer For Your Claim
If you or someone you care for has been injured in a car wreck caused by an animal in the roadway, contact the attorneys at Miller & Zois right away. We are highly experienced Maryland accident attorneys who have won verdicts and settlements for victims of all types of car accidents. We are here to guide you through the legal process and we will do our very best to secure a positive outcome for you and your family. Call 800-553-8082 or contact us online.