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Who Is Liable when A Car Accident Is Caused by An Animal?

The Torres Attorneys Dec. 19, 2021

It’s a common occurrence: a dog darts out into the street and a driver brakes suddenly or swerves while trying to avoid hitting it. A deer leaps into the roadway and crushes the front of the car on impact.

When this happens, you might be wondering who, if anyone, is liable for causing the accident and who will pay for damage to your vehicle or for medical bills if you are injured. The answer depends on the circumstances of the incident, but The Torres Attorneys can help you find it.

If you have been involved in an auto accident involving an animal in the roadway in Corpus Christi, Dallas, or Fort Worth, Texas, we can help you determine who will need to pay for your damages.

How Common Are Accidents Caused by Animals?

You won’t find animals in the top 10 causes of auto accidents, but probably in the top 15. Distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and weather top the list. Nonetheless, thousands of accidents occur on roadways every year due to animals inside and outside the vehicle.

Most animal collisions involving wildlife, including large animals such as deer, moose, and bears, and smaller animals such as racoons and opossums, are single-vehicle accidents. Drivers may sustain damage on impact with the animal or with a fixed object, such as a tree or guardrail, if they swerve while trying to avoid the animal.

Who Is Liable for Damages in Accidents Caused by Animals?

If the animal that caused the accident is owned by someone, the owner could be liable for your damages. If a dog is running loose or a cow escapes a fence and ends up in the middle of the roadway, you may be able to assert a property damage claim, personal injury claim, or both against the dog owner or livestock owner—so long as you can prove they had a responsibility to keep the animal secured and failed to do so. Stray dogs, however, are a different matter. Since they have no owner, no third party can be held accountable.

If another vehicle is involved in the accident and that driver was distracted by the pet in their vehicle, they can be held liable just as they could if they had been using their mobile phone at the time. The likelihood of that happening is high. In fact, one survey found that 64% of drivers with pets admitted to being distracted by them when they are in the vehicle.

If wildlife caused the accident, your insurance will need to pay for your damages. However, that will only happen if you have comprehensive insurance coverage on your vehicle.

What Is Comprehensive Insurance?

You may be familiar with the insurance term “comp and collision coverage.” As you might guess, collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle caused by a crash. If you swerve to miss a deer and hit a tree, your collision coverage, if you have it, may pay for damages.

Although many states, including Texas, require auto owners to carry liability insurance to cover property damage and bodily injuries someone else suffers if they cause an accident, they don’t require comp and collision coverage. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage and you hit a wild or stray animal, you may find yourself paying for repairs out of your own pocket.

If you are paying a lender for your vehicle, you will have comprehensive coverage since most lenders require that you carry it to protect the lender’s lien. Even if you own your car outright, you can see that it’s a smart choice to invest in comprehensive coverage.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

If you sustained injuries in a crash caused by a distracted driver or a dog or livestock in or near Corpus Christi, Texas, personal injury attorneys like us can help. We can locate the owner, investigate the circumstances of the crash, and seek to help you move forward. If you were injured in a crash involving an animal, or if a loved one was incapacitated or killed, contact The Torres Attorneys today.