You are driving down the road, obeying all of the traffic laws. You are typically what others would call a good driver. All of a sudden, an animal darts out from the side of the road right in front of your car. There is nothing you can do but hit the animal.
According to statistics, one in 17 collisions in the United States involve an animal. That means that even “good” drivers find themselves in these unnerving situations. Whether its someone’s pet or a domestic animal, no one wants to be the one to injure or kill a four-legged being. No matter how carefully you drive, you may strike an animal with your vehicle.
When this happens to you, you will be anxious and stressed. Your adrenaline will spike and your hands will shake. Hitting an animal is shocking both because many people feel terribly guilty, but because it often comes so fast that the brain doesn’t have time to process what is happening. Even if you are doing everything right behind the wheel, you can still hit an animal. If you do, there are steps to follow.
Your first inclination may be to throw open you car door and rush to the animal’s side. This can be dangerous for you and other drivers. If your car is still moveable, get it to the side of the road and out of the way of traffic. Put your hazard lights on so that other drivers can see that you are stopped. You don’t want to couple your original accident with one that involves another vehicle.
If you have been injured or anyone in your car suffered injury, call 911 to summon emergency services. If you are okay and your passengers sustained no injury, call the non-emergency number for the local police if you know it. The police may or may not choose to respond, depending on the severity of the accident. They will, however, give you instructions that you should follow.
If the police do respond, stick around to get a report of the accident or find out where a copy can be retrieved. You will want a copy of the accident to submit to your insurance company. When you get home and have had time to calm down, contact your insurance agent and start a claim. If the damage is minor, it may be more cost-effective to pay for it out of your own pocket.
It is rarely safe to approach a wild animal so stay away. Responders will know what to do for the animal so let them do their job. If the animal you have hit is clearly someone’s pet and it is safe to approach, check for a collar and tags. If you locate contact information for the owner, get in touch with them and let them know what has happened. You may want to let the police take care of this to avoid any conflict that may arise.
If there is no identifying information on the animal and it is safe to move it, you can transport it to a local veterinarian or your own. Call ahead and let the staff know that you will be arriving with a pet that has been hit by a car. The vet’s office can check the animal for a microchip and get in touch with the owner.
Before you leave the scene, take photos of everything. Take pictures of your car’s damage, of the animal and of current road conditions. If there were witnesses to the accident, get their information as well. Write down as much as you can as soon as you are able to do so. Memories fade and change over time. Writing down details will help to preserve your accurate memory of the accident.
Before you drive away, check your car. Look for issues with tires or any type of leaking fluid. If your car has a flat or if you notice that fluids are leaking from the underside, it may not be safe to drive your vehicle. Call for a tow truck and have your car checked before you drive it again.
Hitting an animal is a stressful experience, especially if you are an animal lover. If you find yourself in this situation, do your best to remain calm and follow the steps above. If you believe that you may have a legal claim, such as in cases where a pet owner allowed their animal to run without a leash or unsupervised, reach out to our team of auto accident attorneys in West Palm Beach. We will review the details of your accident and advise you of any legal options you have. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation.