Determining fault when a motorist hits an animal will largely depend on what type of animal is involved. There are three basic categories: wild animals, livestock, and domestic animals.
There are several costs incurred by hitting an animal, and your insurer may or may not assist with covering them, depending on the insurance you have and who is considered to be at fault. Here is an overview of what you need to know and how a personal injury lawyer with our firm can help you navigate the confusing legal process.
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There Are Many Variables When Determining Who Is at Fault When Hitting an Animal
A collision with an animal, especially a larger one, such as elk, deer, a horse, or a cow, can result in serious injuries and damage to your vehicle. But who is responsible for covering your losses? Let’s delve a little deeper.
Typically in Florida, there is no legal fault if you collide with a wild animal, such as deer. Your insurance policy will determine whether you or your insurance company will pay for vehicle damage, and any related medical fees will be covered by personal injury protection (PIP) insurance up to a certain amount.
The amount you can recoup will depend on the level of coverage you have (if you opted to buy comprehensive coverage or collision coverage, for example). You may also be charged for towing and carcass removal fees.
In addition, you should report the accident to the police. Documenting the accident can help make the insurance claims process smoother.
If you hit livestock in an area where animals are legally allowed to roam free, the animal owner is not responsible, and you will need to file a police accident report. You might also have to pay for the cost of the animal.
In an area that requires animals to be fenced, if the livestock is not enclosed and causes an accident, then the livestock owner will be responsible for any damage caused by the collision if they were negligent in keeping their animals contained.
Domestic pets, such as cats or dogs, are considered personal property. If you hit a pet, it is illegal to flee the scene per the state’s hit-and-run laws. You are required to exchange details with the pet owner when possible and report the accident to the police if the owner is not found. If anyone is injured in the collision, you will need to call emergency responders right away.
In addition, the animal owner is usually liable as pet owners are required to keep their animals from running free. However, there are times in which the driver is found liable for an accident involving a domestic animal. In that case, your insurance will pay for the related damage up to your policy cap (up to $10,000 for a basic policy).
Damages may include any financial loss the pet owner incurred, such as veterinary bills, burial fees, and the cost of a new pet.
Recovering Compensation after Hitting an Animal
While your insurance company will likely pay for your vehicle damage and medical bills, your policy coverage will determine how much you can recover in damages and losses.
If you purchased the most basic insurance policy, it might not be enough to cover all of your costs. Our injury lawyers can review your policy and help you understand the damages you could recover in lieu of:
- Medical bills and rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages and any impact on future earning capacity
- Property damage
We also examine the details of your case to determine if another party has contributed to the accident, such as poorly maintained roadways, problems with visibility, or faulty lighting, for example. In some cases, it may be possible to hold another party liable for the accident, providing an alternative avenue from which to seek compensation.
When the Claims Process Doesn’t Work in Your Favor
If the insurer doesn’t cooperate and offers a low settlement, you might have the option to bring a lawsuit against them. Florida Statutes §95.11(3)(a) generally allows four years to file a personal injury lawsuit.
If we find that the at-fault party was a government agency, you might have even less time. In any event, we must comply with the deadline. Otherwise, the courts will probably throw out your case.
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The personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine fight for the compensation you need to pay your bills and medical treatment.
If you feel the insurance company is treating you unfairly, are unsure about how to progress a claim, or want to know more about your legal options, reach out today for answers. The first call is free.