What if an Animal Caused Another Driver to Hit You?
Animals in the road pose a serious risk for motorists. Hitting a large animal can do major damage to your vehicle and cause injury to occupants. It can be even more dangerous when a driver swerves to avoid a large animal and hits an oncoming vehicle or goes off the road as a result. The risk is greater on stretches of road in areas with heavy wildlife concentration.
In Nebraska, drivers need to be on alert for white-tailed deer, pronghorns, elk, coyotes, and bighorn sheep, among other wild animals. There is also a risk of hitting domestic animals or farm animals. Agriculture is a major industry in our state, and livestock can wander onto the road.
How Common Are Crashes Caused by Animals in Nebraska?
In the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT):
- 2,558 animal-related crashes were reported in Nebraska.
- 2,321 of these wrecks caused property damage.
- 216 caused injuries.
Is a Driver Who Swerves to Avoid an Animal Still Liable for Your Injuries?
If your vehicle was hit by a driver who swerved to avoid hitting a wild animal, that driver is likely to be found liable for your injuries. Under the law, it is considered unreasonable to put the lives of other human beings at risk to avoid hitting a wild animal. This is true even though the driver may have swerved instinctively and only had a split second to make the decision.
What If the Driver Swerved to Avoid a Domestic Animal?
The situation may be different if the driver swerved to avoid livestock or another domestic animal, such as a cat or a dog. If the animal entered the road, its owner may be liable for the crash. People who own domestic animals have a responsibility to keep them out of the roadways where they can create a hazard for others. The same rules apply for dogs and cats as for horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs.
Livestock is the property of its owner. Farmers have a responsibility to have adequate barriers and fencing in place and to adequately monitor cows and other livestock to ensure they stay in their pastures and out of the road. When livestock gets out, enters the road, and causes a wreck, the owner may be held liable for resulting damages.
How Should Drivers React to Animals in the Road?
When you are driving in an area with heavy wildlife concentration, or on a stretch of road with farming and livestock, there are things you can do to help protect yourself and other motorists:
- Stay alert: Do not text or drive distracted. Never drive alcohol or drug-impaired or fatigued.
- Slow down: Wildlife is most active at dawn, dusk, and nighttime. Slow down and proceed with caution to better avoid animals.
- Don’t tailgate: Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the one ahead. The driver in front of you may have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting an animal.
- Avoid sudden stops: Slow down as gradually as you can when you see an animal in the road to avoid being hit by the driver behind. Honk your horn to alert other motorists and possibly scare off the animal.
- Never swerve to avoid hitting an animal: You could hit another vehicle and cause a multi-car crash, or you could hit a tree or go off the road.
If you have been hurt in an animal-related car wreck, contact Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234 to speak with an experienced Omaha auto accident attorney. We are compassionate listeners and effective litigators who have won millions for our clients.
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