Animal collisions – all you need to know

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How would you react if an animal appeared in your path while you were driving?

Your instinct might be to swerve to avoid a collision, but what if there was a car coming the other way? You could slam on the brakes, but would the car behind stop in time?

It might be too late for any kind of evasive action and you might have no choice but to hit the animal, resulting in injury and even death, not to mention damage to your car.

Whether it’s a loose dog or a roaming badger, a vehicle collision with an animal can be distressing for the driver and other occupants of the car.

So what are your responsibilities in such a situation?

Stop at the scene

Drivers are obliged by law to stop at the scene of an accident if an animal has been killed or injured, unless it is in their own vehicle or trailer.

They should then exchange details with anyone else involved, or report the incident to the police within 24 hours.

But the definition of an animal is curious as it covers any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

In other words, if you hit a deer, or run over a cat, you are within your rights to drive on.

Ironically, deer are particularly vulnerable, especially during the rutting season – autumn for fallow and red deer and early summer for roe deer – when males are particularly restless.

Muntjac deer mate year round (very successfully, if rural Hertfordshire is anything to go by) but tend to be quite timid.

Experts estimate that between 40,000 and 75,000 deer are killed in collisions on UK roads every year, causing losses of £11 million in damage to vehicles.

Accidents don’t just happen on country roads, either: 52% of deer collisions occur on motorways and 48% on A-roads.

Contact the police

Of course, most people would choose to stop, even if the animal did not fit the legal description.

However, you should take care if you approach an injured animal as it could be aggressive.

You should also make sure it is safe to stop and you are not causing a dangerous obstruction.

If an animal is injured, the police should be called so that it can either be treated or humanely dispatched.

If the animal is dead, it is again advisable to report the incident so that the police can arrange for it to be removed.

Clearly, if the carcass is in any way caught up with your vehicle it will need to be removed, so once again you’ll need to contact the authorities.

Drive with care

It’s not always possible to avoid a collision with an animal, particularly if it suddenly runs onto the road.

But drivers can take sensible precautions to minimise the risk of an accident. You should take particular care during the early morning and early evening when wildlife is often at its most adventurous.

Take note of road signs, too, especially deer warnings, and drive with caution and within the speed limit.

Insurance claim

If your car is damaged or the driver or passengers are injured as a result of a collision with an animal, you should be able to claim on your car insurance.

However, the terms and conditions vary so you should check the small print. It can also help your case if you are able to take any photos of the scene and any witness statements.

If you hit a wild animal and make a claim, you would lose your no claims bonus.

If the animal is a pet or a farm beast (or is otherwise ‘owned’ or domesticated) and you can establish that the owner is responsible for the incident, they will be liable for your costs.

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