I Was Hit by a Driver Who Swerved to Avoid an Animal, Can I Collect?
Animals in the road are a common cause of car accidents, especially in remote or rural areas. These incidents often result in injury and property damage.
Unfortunately, North Carolina limits your ability to collect compensation if another driver swerved to avoid an animal. Accident liability is difficult to establish in such cases, but there are a few tactics you can use to seek the maximum compensation you are owed.
You Can Collect Against the Swerving Driver, but It’s Difficult
To seek compensation from a driver who swerved to avoid an animal in the road, you must show that the driver was negligent or committed some error. Negligence can be hard to establish, even in crashes involving catastrophic injury.
Insurance companies routinely deny such claims, and North Carolina courts tend to uphold jury verdicts that find that swerving drivers acted reasonably.
That said, you may be able to prove negligence if:
- The driver was speeding before they noticed the animal.
- The driver was distracted or not paying proper attention to the road.
- The driver overreacted and made risky choices.
For instance, if the driver could see there were other cars on the road when the animal jumped into their lane, the insurance company or the court may not consider swerving as a reasonable action in the circumstances. Generally, it’s better to hit the animal instead of other vehicles on the road, where the driver could endanger other drivers.
Can You Collect Against the Owner of the Animal?
In accidents involving domestic animals, you may collect compensation from the owner if they can be identified and you can show that they failed to exercise reasonable care.
North Carolina law requires owners of livestock such as cows, sheep, and horses to securely safely fence and contain their animals. Failure to comply with this duty can be a form of negligence. However, if the fence is knocked over by a sudden storm and the owner has not had a fair opportunity to discover and repair the broken fence, they likely would not be held liable. Again, the duty is to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the undertaking of fencing and containing livestock. In these cases, it is wise to immediately photograph any openings in the fence on the owner’s property so you can later show that the fence was poorly maintained and not sufficient to contain animals.
If the animal is a dog, you can typically go after the owner only if the local area where the owner resides has a fence or leash law. Without a local ordinance, you likely won’t be able to collect, as current case law doesn’t impose a duty on owners to fence or leash their dogs.
Whose Insurance Pays for Damage or Injury Caused by a Driver Swerved Avoid an Animal?
Many animal-in-the-road accidents are single-vehicle collisions. If you swerved to avoid an animal and no other vehicles or people were involved, your collision-comprehensive insurance coverage should pay for the cost of car repair or replacement. This is optional coverage and is typically subject to a deductible (commonly $500).
Comprehensive insurance provides optional coverage for vehicle damage due to incidents that aren’t collisions, such as:
- Animal accidents
- Weather-storm damage
- Acts of nature
- Glass and windshield damage
If another driver hit you after they swerved to avoid an animal, or if you were a guest passenger riding with a driver who swerved to avoid an animal, you can collect for your injury claims only if you prove that the driver was negligent. For example, if you are riding with a driver who swerves when a deer or dog suddenly runs into the road, you likely cannot collect for your injury claims UNLESS you show that the driver was speeding, inattentive, or committed some driver error which contributed to causing the collision. Absent driver error, juries and insurance companies typically agree that it is not negligent to suddenly react and swerve when an animal darts into a driver’s path.
If the collision involved a domestic animal and the owner is found to have been negligent, you may be able to file a claim against their homeowners’ or farming insurance. A standard homeowners’ policy includes a $100,000 liability policy.
Did You Have a Road Accident Due to Swerved to Avoid an Animal? Call Nagle & Associates Personal Injury Trial Lawyers
Were you injured in an accident caused by an animal being in the roadway? Determining legal liability may be complicated, so you need a lawyer with experience in animal-in-the-road car accidents.
At Nagle & Associates Personal Injury Trial Lawyers, our knowledgeable team can review your case, explain your options, and recommend next steps. If you are eligible to claim compensation, we can support and advise you throughout the process.
Contact our team today at (866) 944-4257 for a free consultation with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney.