When hitting an animal, determining who is at fault depends on whether the animal was wild or domesticated. Hitting a wild animal is generally a no-fault accident, but hitting a domesticated animal may be the owner’s fault if he failed to restrain his animal.
If you hit an animal while violating traffic laws, such as breaking the speed limit or running a red light, you may be partially at fault for the accident. Our car accident team can help you navigate this situation.
Georgia Laws Concerning Loose Animals
To determine fault after hitting an animal, you must consider what type of animal you hit. Georgia has laws in place concerning livestock and dogs but not wild animals.
Wild animals are unpredictable and roam free. There is little you can do to prevent hitting an animal, such as a deer that runs out in front of your car. If you hit a wild animal, that is generally considered a no-fault accident.
Domesticated animals, on the other hand, should be restrained. Here are some laws that may apply to your situation:
- While there is no statewide leash law in Georgia, many local governments require dogs to be on leashes in public. Some cities require dogs to be on leashes in parks, on trails, or in other public places (except in designated off-leash dog parks).
- O.C.G.A. § 4-8-29 states that in most cases, dogs must be kept on the owner’s property unless they are on a leash or in a crate.
- O.C.G.A. § 4-3-3 requires livestock owners to keep animals on their property, not allowing them to run at large or stray on public roads.
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Determining Fault After Hitting an Animal
You should call the police and your insurance provider if you hit an animal. The police report from the accident can show whether you hit a wild or domesticated animal. The police can also inform the animal’s owner of the incident. If you hit an animal without notifying law enforcement, you could be found guilty of a hit-and-run.
The police investigation determines who is at fault. If you hit an off-leash dog or loose livestock animal, the owner may be at fault for failing to restrain the animal. If you were violating any traffic laws at the time, you may be partially at fault for the incident.
The Police Report Is a Valuable Piece of Evidence
When you are represented by a lawyer, they will start by listening to your version of events. The lawyer who represents you will also obtain a copy of the police report as soon as possible. This document will tell your legal team the following information:
- The animal’s classification (whether it was domesticated, wild, or livestock)
- The animal’s owner and their contact details
- The owner’s insurance provider and their contact information
- The visible damage to your car
- Your injuries and whether you needed emergency care
- Witness statements and their contact details
If you were injured in the accident, you deserve to focus on your recovery period––not determining fault and liability for your losses. When you partner with a car accident lawyer, they will collect information to support your case and advocate for what you need.
Recovering Damages After Hitting an Animal
Hitting an animal can cause extensive injuries and property damage. You could pursue compensation for your injuries either through a claim or lawsuit.
If you opt to file an insurance claim, your lawyer can handle many aspects of the claims process for you. He will also manage all case-related communications with claims adjusters and the at-fault party’s representatives.
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Your Coverage Options After Hitting a Wild Animal
Since hitting a wild animal is usually a no-fault accident, you cannot recover damages from a third party. Contact your insurance provider to see whether your policy will pay for your vehicle’s repairs.
For instance, if you have comprehensive coverage, your insurer may pay for your damages. Comprehensive coverage can pay for damage out of your control, such as when your car suffers damage from an adverse weather event.
If needed, a lawyer can navigate this process and ensure your vehicle is restored to its pre-accident condition or replaced according to its current value.
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Your Coverage Options After Hitting a Domesticated Animal
If you hit a domesticated animal that was loose, you may be able to recover damages from its owner. You may be entitled to financial compensation that includes:
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs
- Medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Your lawyer will estimate the value of your damages based on your case’s evidence. He can help you obtain copies of your medical records and bills to ensure you are not left with out-of-pocket expenses.
Your lawyer can also properly assess your vehicle’s damage. You shouldn’t be left without transportation because of another party’s negligence. If you need temporary transportation arrangements while your car undergoes repairs (or you search for a new vehicle), we can include those expenses in your claim’s value.
Contributory Negligence Laws in Georgia
If you were partially at fault for the accident, you can still recover reduced damages under Georgia’s contributory negligence law. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33 allows a driver who is less than 50% responsible for an accident to recover damages.
For example, if you are 10% responsible, you can collect 90% of your damages. Your lawyer can determine your contribution to the accident. He can also protect you from allegations of fault and pursue the compensation you’re entitled to.
Our Firm Can Help if You Hit an Animal
Your lawyer can help with every aspect of your case, starting at the accident scene. Here are some things we can do for you:
- Determine whether the animal had an owner
- Investigate your situation to gather traffic camera footage, the police report, and other pieces of evidence
- Communicate with the involved insurance providers
- Estimate the value of your damages
- File an insurance claim
- Negotiate a settlement and evaluate offers
- File a lawsuit
- Gather eyewitness testimony
Legal Deadlines After Hitting an Animal
If the insurance company does not agree to a reasonable settlement, we can file a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33 establishes the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits at two years.
You must file a lawsuit before the two-year deadline, or you forfeit your right to sue. We can explain what other factors could prolong your filing deadline.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Will Prepare and File Your Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit after hitting an animal (domesticated or otherwise) is relatively rare. However, if your case warrants a lawsuit, your lawyer will:
- File your lawsuit within the allotted time period
- Interview and depose relevant parties
- Assign a financial value to your lawsuit
- Prepare supporting evidence and exhibits
If the insurance company is not forthcoming with an acceptable offer or is not treating you fairly, you may benefit from the assistance and guidance of a personal injury lawyer in your area.
Kaine Law Will Advocate for You
Our personal injury lawyers at Kaine Law will champion your rights if you hit an animal. We will stand up for your rights and pursue fair compensation. Call our office today for a free consultation. Because we work on contingency, you pay nothing unless we win your case.