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Fox Farley Willis & Burnette Attorneys At Law
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Who is Liable When a Car Hits an Animal in the Road?


When we get behind the wheel of a car, we often think about the possibility of being hit by another driver, or the risk that we may hit a pedestrian. But there’s another danger on our roads that we often overlook: wild stock, and wild animals.

Wild animals, especially larger ones, can pose a grave danger to motorists. Large animals can be heavy enough to move our vehicles off the road, sending them careening and possibly, toppling them over.

Reporting the Accident

Legally you do not have to report an accident involving a wild animal. However, it is always best to do so, as the police report will constitute evidence that the accident actually happened—and, it can open the door to a police investigation into whether or not someone owned the animal, and allowed it to escape.

Livestock and Owned Animals

The first question to ask when you are injured in an accident involving a wild animal, is whether that animal is actually wild, or whether it is livestock (or a pet or domestic animal). If it is the latter, the animal belongs to someone—someone who allowed the animal to get loose, and wander on the roadway.

The owner of livestock can be liable for injuries caused to others by the livestock—especially when the owner is responsible for securing the animals, and did not.

Of course, you may have no idea who owned the animal, nor any idea how to figure out who owns it. If that is the case, your uninsured motorist coverage may step in, and cover the claim on behalf of the unknown, but liable, owner of the animal.

Wild Animals

If the animal is, truly, wild, then there can be issues with insurance coverage. Your own car insurance often will not fully cover injuries or damages caused by wild animals on the roadway. You would be left to your own health insurance policy, to cover expenses related to your injuries.

If you have what is known as comprehensive insurance, damage to your car will be covered. But not all property damage coverage is comprehensive; if it is not, it is likely that damage caused by wild animals is excluded from coverage.

If you have what is called medpay on your car insurance, that may also pay a portion of your medical expenses.

Cars and Animals

Note that not all accidents caused by wild animals are a result of  direct impact with the animal. There are many situations where someone will veer off the road in an effort to avoid an animal, and in doing so, the evading driver will end up veering into an adjacent lane, or into traffic coming from the opposite direction.

Call the Knoxville car accident lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today if you have been injured in a collision with an animal on any Tennessee roadway.


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