Car-Animal Collision in Massachusetts
Roadways and animals are a volatile and often perilous mix. Animals can be large, unpredictable and some are especially prevalent during the fall and winter, when roads conditions are already treacherous.
Although Car vs. Animal Collisions often don’t garner the same splashy headlines as violent crashes with huge pileups or mammoth tractor-trailers, the fact is animals on roads are still a serious problem for motorists in New England.
Some of the animals known to be frequently involved in Massachusetts car accidents include:
- Cattle / Cows
- Dogs / Cats
- Goats / Sheep
- Mountain Lions
Keep in mind: A lot of animals are primarily active at dawn and dusk, so this is when the bulk of car-animal accidents happen. It doesn’t help that it’s darker at these times, making it harder for motorists to spot the creature in enough time to stop. Crashes tend to be more common October through December because that is mating season for deer and moose.
Our Boston car accident attorneys know the risk in these situations is two-fold. The first potential danger is that a driver will strike the animal, which in and of itself can cause major property damage, serious injury and even death. The second possible hazard is that a vehicle swerves to avoid an animal and ends up striking another vehicle or fixed object.
The Insurance Information Institute reports the average cost for an animal-related crash is about $10,000. In our experience, it’s not unusual for such collisions to result in significantly higher damage amounts.
Some of the possible injuries incurred in these incidents include:
If you have been injured in a collision with an animal, let us help you determine what avenues are available for compensation.
Animal Crashes by The Numbers
The National Safety Council reports there are approximately 530,000 animal-related accidents annually, resulting in at least 100 deaths and 10,000 injuries.
Many tend to think of crashes with wildlife or other animals as a problem unique to rural regions. While the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports 9 out of 10 wildlife-vehicle collisions occur on two-lane roads, it should be noted that both two-lane roads and large animals exist in many areas where people live and commute to work in nearby cities like Boston.
In fact, two-lane roads are often critical travel corridors in the U.S., and some motorists rely on two-lane roads for most of their highway travel miles.
Although it may be impossible to know the exact number of Car vs. Animal Collisions nationally, we do know about 300,000 involving wildlife are reported to the FHWA each year. However, that’s likely a low estimate because not all cases are reported. Additionally, not all crash databases include collisions where property damage is less than $1,000. Finally, it doesn’t include farm animals and pets that sometimes get loose and find their way into the road.
Another reason we know that’s low is because a single insurance company reported there were 1.23 million car accidents involving deer in a single one-year period. That figure doesn’t include other types of animals either.
In looking solely at moose accidents in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit reported the number of moose-vehicle collisions has been steadily increasing in recent years, as the moose population has risen. These crashes are particularly deadly because the average adult male moose is between 840 to 1,500 pounds and can reach up to 7 feet tall. A combination of factors lead to certain areas being “hot spots” for these crashes, including:
- Higher traffic volumes
- Seasonal movements
- Lack of forested habitat
- State highways (interstate highways tend to serve as major barriers to moose movement)
But while there is an accumulation of factors as to why these crashes occur, speeding is reportedly one of the most prevalent factors that contribute to the severity of the crash.
Drivers must be aware of the potential for seeing one, particularly on two-lane roads outside the city, and adjust their speed accordingly. Failure to do so could be grounds for a passenger or another driver to assert negligence.
Wild Animals vs. Owned Animals
There is a difference in the way your injury attorney can pursue claims for compensation for crashes involving animals depending on whether the animal was wild or owned by someone.
State law requires owners of livestock to keep them properly fenced in or penned up. If an owned animal gets out and wanders into the roadway, it’s considered the legal responsibility of the owner to pay for any property damage or injuries that result if a vehicle hits the animal.
Those who own livestock often carry farm owner’s insurance, which provides personal liability coverage for claims against the property owner stemming from issues with livestock.
If a crash involves a horse that is being ridden or driven on a public way, Massachusetts Gen. Law, Ch. 90, Section 14 applies. If you are driving, you must immediately stop when approaching a cow, horse or other daft animal being led, ridden or driven. Motorists are required to remain stationary so long as may be reasonable to allow the animal to pass (if traveling the opposite direction) or to pass the animal with reasonable caution (if traveling in the same direction). The onus is on the motor vehicle driver to slow down.
If a crash involves a wild animal, there is no owner against whom to file a claim. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of options.
Single-vehicle claims involving collisions with wild animals typically are compensated through comprehensive coverage of auto insurance, subject to deductible. Comprehensive coverage is sometimes referred to as other-than-collision (OTC) coverage. This type of insurance covers things like theft, falling trees, vandalism – and hitting a wild animal.
So if you live in a wooded area or regularly commute on a two-lane road where there are farms or large animals, you may want to secure comprehensive coverage. It should be noted comprehensive coverage is only extended if you hit the animal. If you swerve and hit a tree, you would be claiming collision coverage, and probably personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
Other Types of Compensation
As we mentioned, PIP benefits, as outlined in Mass. Gen. Law, ch. 90, section 34M, would be the first avenue if you’re a driver, regardless of whether another vehicle is involved.
If you are a passenger in the vehicle, you may be entitled to collect on the liability portion of the driver’s policy or the policy of the vehicle owner (if they are different).
However, if another driver was involved, you may be able to file a claim for compensation if you can prove they were somehow negligent. For example, if the driver failed to slow down or otherwise use reasonable care, you may have a valid claim.
If you are unsure about how to file your animal accident claim, let us help.
Contact the Attorney Injury Group today for a free and confidential consultation.