Animal in the Road Accident
Most accidents involving animals are single-vehicle collisions. Animal avoidance accidents are very common, especially in rural areas where deer often cross the roadway. Unfortunately, the driver and passengers injured in accidents caused by animals have very limited rights.
To collect in a personal injury claim against a driver who swerves to avoid a dog, a deer, or any animal in the roadway, you must prove that the driver committed some error. Insurance companies commonly deny these claims. To collect for personal injury, the passenger must show that the driver was negligent. North Carolina appellate courts have routinely upheld jury verdicts that find that the driver who swerves to avoid an animal is acting as any reasonable and prudent driver would under those emergency circumstances. Even in violent, roll-over collisions involving catastrophic injury, the victim would not be able to recover for medical expenses and pain and suffering unless he or she can show that the driver made some slight mistake. Insurance adjusters act immediately to secure recorded/written testimony from the driver and all passengers. They hope that the passenger/victim will be willing to solely blame the animal in the roadway for the incident. They will then close your file and refuse payment on all injury claims.
If the driver was driving too fast before he or she first noticed the animal in the roadway, this error would allow victims to collect full payment for all injury claims. If the driver was not paying proper attention and didn’t notice the animal soon enough or if the driver overreacted and made unsafe choices, this would also allow the victims to collect insurance benefits. On the other hand, if the driver responded properly to the animal in the roadway, passengers cannot collect money damages against the driver’s policy through a personal injury claim.
If the owner of the animal can be identified, he or she can be pursued for payment of damages by all innocent victims. Owners of cows, horses, and other livestock are legally required to safely fence and contain these animals. If livestock escapes and enters the roadway, the driver and passengers can collect for property damage and personal injury. The burden of proof is on the victim to show that the owner failed to exercise reasonable care to properly contain the animals. These claims are presented against the owners of livestock and their homeowner’s or farming insurance policies.
If a dog enters the roadway in an area that has a fence or leash law, the dog’s owner can be pursued and most homeowner’s policies carry a $300,000.00 liability policy, which would apply if a jury found that the dog’s owner failed to comply with a legal duty to leash or otherwise contain his or her dog. However, if there is no law or local ordinance, current case law does not impose a legal duty on dog owners to fence or leash the dog. Thus, there would be no owner liability and therefore no avenue of recovery absent a showing of driver error. In all cases where the driver contributes to causing the accident involving an animal in the roadway, guest passengers can collect from the driver’s liability insurance and all other underinsured motorist policies in his or her household.