My Car Hit An Animal – Can I Claim For PI

My Car Hit An Animal – Can I Claim For PI?

Britain is undoubtedly a nation of animal lovers. Most people who collide with a large or medium-size animal such as a dog, cow, horse, or deer are devastated for the beast if it is seriously injured or killed. However, hitting a large animal or swerving to avoid one can also result in minor to severe injuries to the vehicle’s occupants.

For example, in June 2022, a driver was injured after hitting four cows that had wandered out of their field and onto a duel carriageway. And in December 2023, a court heard that a primary school teacher was killed by a cow when an “entirely uncontrolled” herd of cattle was allowed to run free on a public bridleway in 2016. The owners of the cows face a fine of up to £250,000 for having no “suitable and sufficient” plan in place to prevent the death.

Before examining how to claim for a personal injury if you are hurt in a motor vehicle accident involving an animal, it is useful to point out your legal responsibilities if you hit an animal on the road.

What does the law say I must do if I hit an animal with my car?

The first thing to do is move to a place where you can safely stop, turn on your hazard lights, and switch your engine off. Check to see if you or any passengers are injured.

You must report the accident to the police if you hit any of the following:

  • dogs
  • horses
  • cattle
  • pigs
  • goats
  • sheep
  • donkeys and mules

If the animal is still alive, it is best not to approach as it may act aggressively if it is in pain and/or frightened. You can call the following numbers for help:

  • RSPCA (England and Wales) on 0300 1234 999
  • Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scotland) on 03000 999 999
  • Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Northern Ireland) on 028 3025 1000

Although you do not have to report collisions with wild animals such as badgers and foxes, calling the appropriate number above may save the creature’s life. In the case of deer, some are kept in enclosures, and if they escape, the enclosure’s owner may be liable for any injury caused. Therefore, it is always best to call the police if you hit a deer, despite the fact there is no legal requirement to do so.

If the animal is dead, you must report it to your local council.

Who is liable for an accident involving livestock on the road?

A livestock owner is responsible for ensuring their animals are kept safely enclosed and cannot escape onto roads or footpaths. The same applies to pet owners.

In Donaldson v Wilson (2004), the Court of Appeal ruled that a farmer was liable for an accident caused by cattle straying from his farm and roaming through a derelict neighbouring property to end up on a public highway. This was even though a gate on the farm had been wrongly left open by a walker, and the derelict farm had no barrier between it and the road.

Most farmers have public liability insurance which provides cover in cases where activities on their property (including livestock escaping) causes a personal injury and/or property damage.

How can I claim for a personal injury caused by hitting or swerving an animal?

If you have been injured in a car accident involving an animal, try to collect evidence at the scene and ensure the police are called. Get the names and addresses of any witnesses to the accident, and if possible, take photos of your vehicle and the surrounding area.

The next step to take is to contact an experienced Personal Injury Solicitor. They will carefully listen to your case and establish whether you have a viable compensation claim.

For the Court to order the owner of the escaped animal to pay compensation, you, as the Claimant, must prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the livestock owner:

  •  Owed you a duty of care,
  • Breached that duty, and
  • Their breach resulted in you suffering a personal injury that was reasonably foreseeable.

Your Personal Injury Solicitor will collate, analyse, and present to the Court evidence that proves all of the above. Evidence is gathered from sources such as:

  • Property information such as land titles (to prove the Defendant owned the land from which the animal/s escaped).
  • Witness statements.
  • Photographs of the scene.
  • Experts in road traffic accidents and livestock behaviour (known as expert evidence).
  • Medical and police records and reports.

The above list is not exhaustive. Your Solicitor will meticulously examine all the accident details to build a robust compensation claim. It is important to remember that most Personal injury claims are settled through an Out of Court Settlement. Therefore, it is unlikely you will have to endure the stress of a Court trial.

Wrapping up

Few things are more distressing and frightening than hitting a medium-size or large animal with your vehicle, especially if the accident happens at night or in the early hours of the morning (as is commonly the case).

If you have been injured in such an event, it is crucial to contact a Personal Injury Solicitor as swiftly as possible as a three-year time limit applies to making a personal injury claim.

If you are concerned about how you will pay for your legal fees, don’t worry – most personal injury cases are taken on a No Win, No Fee basis.

Our team has decades of combined experience in successfully advising and representing clients in personal injury cases. We are sympathetic and understanding and are here to help you every step of the way.

If you would like to discuss an issue, please get in touch to arrange a free no obligation consultation. We’re available by email or phone.


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