100% Free Consultations
Call Us Now
Wildlife and Livestock Vehicle Accidents

Wildlife and Livestock Vehicle Accidents

Texas leads the nation in the number of traffic deaths caused by collisions with animals. Every year in Texas, there are thousands of animal-related crashes. Most of these involve wildlife such as deer, but domestic animals like cattle and dogs also pose a threat to motorists.

Collisions with animals can raise legal issues not encountered with other types of car accidents. You could end up having a dispute with your own insurance company over your comprehensive or collision coverage, a dispute with another driver, or a dispute with an animal owner or property owner.

If you were in an accident involving wildlife or livestock, a personal injury attorney at Jim Adler & Associates can explain your legal options.

Texas Animal Crashes – Data and Statistics

In the densely populated urban areas of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, you’re more likely to have a car accident with a drunk driver, a speeding driver, or a distracted driver than with an animal. But when traveling on rural roads, especially at night, the chances of an animal-vehicle collision increase substantially.

The wide-open Texas spaces are home to an abundance of wildlife. Expanding human populations can displace wildlife and make human-animal interactions more common. Roadways fragment natural habitats and increase the likelihood of animal crossings.

In addition to large populations of deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, coyote, fox, racoon, opossum, and other wild animals commonly encountered on roadways, Texas has the most cattle of any state at around 12 million head—roughly 13% of the total U.S. cattle population—and approximately 7 million dogs.

Striking an animal with your car can be not only emotionally traumatizing, but life-threatening. The following statistics put into perspective the risks of Texas vehicle-animal collisions:

  • “Animal on Road” is one of the top contributing factors in Texas crashes, according to the Department of Transportation.
  • In 2022, domestic animals on roadways contributed to nearly 2,500 Texas rural crashes and wild animals on roadways contributed to over 5,200 rural crashes.
  • Also in 2022, domestic animals contributed to approximately 800 Texas urban traffic incidents and wild animals contributed to more than 1,000 incidents in urban areas.
  • In total, Texas vehicle-animal encounters resulted in 9,589 crashes, including 25 fatal crashes, 212 serious injury crashes, and 902 minor injury crashes, in 2022.
  • Texas drivers report approximately 8,000 crashes per year involving domestic animals or wildlife, according to research from the University of Texas at Austin. The actual number may be 5 to 10 times higher than what is reported to law enforcement.
  • The same UT study found that, from 2010 – 2016, more than 51,000 animal-related crashes were reported in Texas. These crashes cost Texas motorists over $1.3 billion.
  • Texas ranks fifth in the country for car crashes involving deer, reports Texas Highways, citing data from State Farm.
  • UT research indicates that Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin has high deer density and the highest number of wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state.
  • Over a 10-year period (2012 – 2021), Texas had 197 motor vehicle crash fatalities caused by animal collisions—more than any other state—IIHS data
  • Animal-vehicle collisions in Texas occur most frequently between 5 and 8 AM and 5 and 10 PM.
  • Motorists are more likely to collide with wildlife during October, November, and December, a period that coincides with hunting and mating season.
  • Collisions with wildlife represent about 65% of animal-vehicle collisions, while collisions with domestic animals make up about 30%. Around 5% of accidents involving animals are unspecified.
  • Most animal-vehicle collisions occur at night, in unlit locations, and on rural roads with low traffic volume.
  • Animal accidents are particularly dangerous to motorcyclists and drivers not wearing seatbelts.

It’s not just the impact from hitting an animal that places a motorist at risk of injury. Swerving to avoid an animal can cause a driver to lose control. Data from IIHS finds that in addition to the actual collision with an animal, the most harmful events in this type of accident are rollovers, collisions with a fixed object, and collisions with another vehicle.

State Farm recommends slowing down and using high beams when driving in known wildlife areas. Many of these areas have signs indicating “deer crossing,” “wildlife crossing,” or “cattle crossing.”

Be mindful of peak season and peak times for animals in the road (generally from dusk to dawn). Avoid the urge to swerve, don’t get distracted, and wear your seatbelt. A San Antonio woman who died recently in a deer collision was not wearing her seatbelt.

Insurance and Legal Issues in Animal Collisions

You can’t make an insurance claim against an animal. If you hit livestock on a public roadway, you might be able to hold the livestock owner liable, but your actions at the time of the crash could come under scrutiny.

You might also be able to file a claim against your own insurer, depending on the types of insurance policies you carry. If you strike a deer or other wildlife with your vehicle, or if you crash while trying to avoid the animal, here are your insurance options:

  • Comprehensive insurance protects you in the event of non-collision accidents and other “acts of God” explains Texas Farm Bureau Insurance. This includes hitting an animal and single vehicle rollover accidents, which could occur when you swerve to avoid an animal in the road.
  • Collision insurance covers you if you swerve to miss an animal and avoid it—but you then hit an object such as a tree or guardrail.
  • Liability coverage comes into play if you take evasive action to avoid an animal and end up hitting another vehicle. In such cases, your liability insurance covers injuries and property damage to others. Another driver’s liability insurance covers you if they swerve to avoid an animal and hit you.

While liability coverage is required in Texas, comprehensive and collision insurance are optional. They may be worth carrying if you can afford the added insurance costs and live in an area of the state with a lot of animal collisions, such as Hill Country around San Antonio. But keep in mind that comprehensive and collision only cover claims for vehicle damage. They don’t cover medical bill claims.

Without comprehensive or collision insurance, you may be left with out-of-pocket property damage costs for a wildlife crash. If you purchased medical payments coverage (MedPay), this could cover your medical bills, regardless of the cause of the crash. You may also be able to use your private health insurance policy.

Any questions about wildlife accidents, who can be held liable, and insurance availability should be discussed with a Texas car accident lawyer.

Wild Animal Vehicle Accidents

Wild animals have no owners. When you hit one, it amounts to an “act of God.” But as described above, an accident caused by an animal like a deer or elk may qualify for comprehensive, collision, or liability coverage.

Accident Involving Domestic Animal or Livestock

If you collide with a domestic animal that belongs to somebody, or swerve to avoid hitting the animal, you may have a claim against the owner.

Accidents With Dogs

It’s illegal in Texas to allow dogs to roam loose. Dog owners are responsible for keeping their pet secure and making sure they don’t wander. A dog is unlikely to cause serious harm to you or your vehicle, but if you swerve to miss a dog and crash, you could get badly injured.

In this scenario, a negligent dog owner (i.e., an owner who fails to keep their dog out of the road) could be held liable—assuming you can determine who the owner is. And if you brake to avoid hitting a dog and somebody rear ends you, that driver might be responsible.

Livestock Collision – Who is Liable if You Hit a Cow in Texas?

When it comes to a livestock accident, the law may not be on your side. Texas A&M explains that Texas is an open range, or free range, state. This means livestock is permitted to roam freely, and owners are not responsible for keeping their animals contained.

However, individual Texas counties—and even portions of counties—can modify the open range rule and impose a duty on landowners to keep animals from entering the road. The so-called “stock law” that is passed in an area can specify what animals are covered.

There is also an exception to the open range rule for U.S. highways and state highways. The exception, though, is not black and white. There can be debate over what constitutes a “highway” and who has control over the animals. Questions can arise such as: is the landowner also the owner of the animal, or does the animal belong to a third party who leases the land?

Finally, if you end up filing a claim over a domestic animal collision, your own actions at the time of the crash could be called into question. You may be investigated for speeding, distracted driving, or otherwise driving negligently. While your own negligence might not prevent you from recovering compensation, it might. It could also reduce your overall award.

Single-Car Accident vs. Multi-Vehicle Accident With Animals

Single vehicle accidents with an animal can be complicated enough. Based on the animal involved, you may end up making a claim against the animal’s owner (if it was a domestic animal and you can identity the owner), or with your own insurance company (if it was a wild animal or a domestic animal with an unidentified owner).

But if the crash involves an animal and another vehicle, the situation becomes even more complex.

The first point to consider is how the accident happened. Did you swerve to avoid an animal and hit another car, or did another car swerve to avoid an animal and hit you? This distinction matters because the vehicle that swerved might be to blame.

Maybe the other driver took evasive action to avoid an animal in the road and they crashed into you. But they didn’t see the animal until the last minute because they were texting. In this example, the other driver’s negligence—not the animal—might be the cause of the accident.

Here’s another scenario: you were forced to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting an animal, and then were struck from behind by another driver who was following too closely. In this case, the other driver might once again be at fault due to not maintaining a safe following distance.

The circumstances could also be reversed. That is, you could strike another vehicle that was trying to avoid an animal, and you might be blamed for causing the accident due to driving distracted, tailgating, speeding, or some other negligent act.

Ultimately, fault may lie with more than one party, such as the other driver and the owner of the animal. Both drivers, and the animal owner, could share liability, too.

These examples illustrate why the specific details of an accident matter, and why you may need to consult with an injury lawyer to unpack what happened and who’s to blame, particularly if you, another driver, an animal owner, and the insurance companies are not in agreement.

Wild and Domestic Animal Car Accident Attorneys

With all the risks we face from other motorists, colliding with an animal might be low down on your list of driving dangers. However, hitting an animal that weighs hundreds or thousands of pounds can cause serious damage. And even small animals in the road can cause you to swerve and crash.

Hiring the right car accident lawyer can make or break your case. Don’t just hope for the best—hire the best and know that your case is in the hands of tough, smart, and accomplished lawyers. There are many car accident law firms in Texas, but there’s only one Texas Hammer. Find out why we’re trusted by thousands of Texans: call or contact us for your free consultation.

Get A Free Consultation

Free Case Review

Line decoration
Over 50 years of experience. If we don't win, you don't pay.

    Call Now Button