Car Accidents Involving Animals: Who is Liable?

When talking about regular auto accidents, determining fault is easy. They just need to know who crashed into whom, who ran the red light, or just who violated a traffic law at the time of the accident or immediately before it. But, what if an animal is involved? How is liability determined if you hit and injure or kill someone’s pet dog or a cow crossing the road? Who pays for the treatment of the pet and who the damage on your car? Will the services of a car accident attorney in Kent be necessary? Here is an in-depth elucidation of the laws governing car accidents involving animals in Washington State.

Liability determination

Before anything, it is important to understand that crashing into a cow does not exclusively result in injuries to the animal. Livestock, just like deer and other wild animals, can lead to serious injuries on the driver and extensive damage to the car. However, a cow or a horse, unlike a deer, most likely has an owner, and that’s where things get complicated. Are you responsible for the death of the cow? Do you have a claim against the owner of the cow for your injuries and damage on your car?

Like virtually every other car accident case, the answers to the above questions depend on a series of factors, one of them being your car insurance policy. Accidents involving animals, small or big, are generally covered by the comprehensive section of your insurance policy, which usually comes with the collision coverage.

In Washington, contrary to a popular notion, liability is not automatically shouldered on the driver when they hit an animal. If a cow or dog was running loose on a public road, there is a likelihood the owner will be held partially or fully liable for damages to the car. The driver will only need to prove that the owner of the animal was negligent and that the negligence caused the collision. Secure fencing laws in Washington State protect drivers on public roads from liability in collisions involving animals.

What to do if you hit a car on a Washington State highway

If, while driving your vehicle on a highway in Washington, a pet or farm animal suddenly rushes into your path causing you to hit it, take care of the people in your car first. Hitting an animal can be anguishing but human safety simply can’t be forfeited for anything.

Next, take as many pictures and videos of the accident as possible, especially if you believe the cow owner’s negligence led to the accident, to help back your claim afterwards. If there are any breaks on the fence around the farm that the animal may have escaped from, take pictures of them as well as the rancher can slyly repair them and eliminate crucial evidence.

Your auto insurance company should be contacted as soon as possible too and be provided with the pictures and any other evidence that you have.