Car accidents involving deer, raccoons, alligators, and other wild animals present unique challenges when it comes to recovering financial compensation. Accidents involving pets and livestock present unique challenges as well, although drivers injured in these accidents will have a better chance of recovering full compensation in some cases.
Our Boca Raton personal injury law firm handles car accident claims involving collisions with all types of animals, and we can help you recover the maximum compensation available regardless of the type of animal involved.
Car Accident Claims Involving Wild Animals
First, we will discuss car accident claims involving wild animals. In South Florida, it is not unusual to see many different types of wild animals on the road, from deer to raccoons, and from snapping turtles to alligators.
1. If You Were the Driver in a Single-Car Accident
As a general rule, if you are involved in a single-car crash involving an animal as a driver, you will not have a fault-based claim to pursue. Wild animals are, by their nature, unpredictable, and no one – not even the government – can be reasonably expected to prevent wildlife from entering the roadway.
However, you should be able to file a claim under your own auto insurance policy. This includes a claim for personal injury protection (PIP) if you were injured, and it includes a claim for comprehensive coverage if your vehicle was damaged in the accident. PIP coverage is mandatory under Florida’s no-fault insurance law, and most people have coverage of $10,000. Comprehensive coverage is optional, but many South Florida drivers choose to pay for this additional coverage.
2. If You Were a Passenger in a Single-Car Accident
If you were a passenger in a single-car accident involving a wild animal in Boca Raton or elsewhere in South Florida, you potentially have a couple of options. First, if you have PIP coverage, then you should be able to file a claim under your policy. PIP coverage “follows the insured,” which means that you can file a claim even if you were injured in someone else’s vehicle.
Your second option is to file a fault-based claim against the driver. If the driver of the vehicle in which you were riding was negligent in either failing to avoid the animal or failing to prevent the accident from being worse than it was, then you can file a claim under his or her bodily injury liability (BIL) policy. While you may initially be hesitant to file a fault-based claim against a friend or family member, this is what insurance is for, and your friend or family member will most likely want you to take advantage of the coverage that is available.
3. If You Were Involved in a Multi-Vehicle Accident
If you were injured in an animal-involved accident that also involved multiple vehicles, then you will need to hire a Boca Raton personal injury law firm to investigate the accident and determine who (if anyone) is liable. While it may be the case that the wild animal left neither driver with any alternative, it is also quite possible that one or more of the drivers was negligent in the collision. As a general rule, drivers need to put other motorists’ safety before the safety of wild animals; and, if a driver swerved to avoid a wild animal but then collided with your vehicle (or forced your vehicle off of the road), you could have a fault-based claim for financial compensation.
4. If a Vehicle or Road Defect was to Blame
Following a car accident involving a wild animal, it is also important to carefully assess whether any factors related to the road or your vehicle caused or contributed to your injuries. For example, while government agencies cannot keep wild animals off of the road, they can install signs, guardrails, and lighting in high-risk areas, and they can design roads that allow drivers to stop as safely and quickly as possible. Sharp bends, areas where water and debris can accumulate in the roadway, and other road defects can all potentially support claims for liability.
Likewise, if you were unable to stop because your brakes failed, if your airbag failed to deploy, or if another issue with your vehicle prevented you from stopping or caused you to suffer unnecessary injuries, then your vehicle’s manufacturer could be liable. At Hollander Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing individuals and families in cases involving vehicle defects in addition to other causes of serious and fatal vehicle collisions.
Car Accident Claims Involving Pets and Livestock
In-car accidents involving pets and livestock, all of the above-discussed principles apply, with the exception that these animals’ owners can – and should – take appropriate steps to prevent them from entering the road. If an animal owner negligently allows his or her pet or farm animal to enter the roadway, and if one or more drivers or passengers are injured as a result, then the owner can be held fully accountable under Florida law.
This is the same basic principle of negligence that applies when drivers are to blame for causing car accidents. Animal owners have a duty to prevent their animals from causing accidents, and, if they fail to meet this duty, they can be held accountable. Whether and to what extent insurance coverage is available will depend on the circumstances involved, with auto insurance, homeowners’ insurance, and commercial liability insurance all potentially coming into play.
Schedule a Free Car Accident Consultation in Boca Raton, FL
No matter what happened, if you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident involving an animal, you owe it to yourself to speak with an attorney to find out what options you have available. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Hollander Law Firm in Boca Raton today. You can reach us 24/7 online or by phone at 888-751-7770, and you pay nothing unless we win.