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What to Do If You Hit an Animal With Your Car
Hitting an animal with your car is an upsetting experience for anyone. Depending on the type of animal, you might be overwhelmed with a lot of questions about how to care for the injured creature and what your legal responsibilities are.
Beyond those concerns, there is the question of insurance. Who will pay for the damage to your car? Let's look at answers to some of these questions, along with how to avoid the accident in the first place.
Stop and Check the Animal
After you've ensured you and anyone else in your car are not hurt, the first thing to do is see how badly the animal is injured.
If you hit an animal, don't flee the scene. State laws vary, but many of them require you to stay and report animal accidents to the authorities, especially if the animal is domestic.
If You Hit a Wild Animal
Collisions between cars and wild animals are quite common, especially during the fall when it's getting darker earlier and animals are migrating. Deer are well-known for darting in front of unsuspecting drivers and causing serious accidents.
Although you typically don't have a legal obligation to report hitting wildlife, it's still humane to check on the animal. If it's alive but injured, it's important to call law enforcement to find out how you can get help. Do not touch the animal or try to assist it yourself—injured wildlife can be aggressive and dangerous
If You Hit Someone's Pet
Hitting someone's dog or other pet with your car can be particularly distressing, and it's especially important to assess the animal's condition and, if possible, get in touch with its owner. If you can safely read its tags without endangering yourself, see if you can get the necessary contact information.
Just as with wild animals, it's important to be careful. Wounded animals are unpredictable and can quickly become aggressive. Never try to move an injured pet unless it's absolutely necessary. You could cause more damage to the animal or put yourself in harm’s way.
If you’re on a busy road and need to move a dog or other domestic animal out of harm's way, try placing a blanket or a jacket over the injured pet so you can more safely move it.
Dealing With Insurance
There are a few different costs that you might incur if you hit an animal while driving. Your insurance may or may not assist with these, depending on who is considered at fault and what insurance coverage you have.
Veterinary Care Costs
Veterinary bills for pets can quickly pile up when an animal is hit by a car. A dog's owner is usually the one responsible for deciding on the course of treatment and for covering all the expenses, as it is considered their responsibility to keep their animal from running into traffic.
However, if you cannot locate the owner, the cost could fall on you if you bring the animal to the vet. That’s why, if you hit someone's pet, it’s much better to call animal control or the police. If you do take an injured dog to the vet and are unsure of the dog's owner, speak with the vet to get an idea of what to expect.
BY EMILY DELBRIDGE REVIEWED BY
THOMAS J. BROCK
Updated February 16, 2021
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