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DETERMINING LIABILITY IN WILDLIFE-RELATED ACCIDENTS: WHO BEARS RESPONSIBILITY?


Photo of a bear crossing the road

If you’re driving and your vehicle strikes a deer, moose, elk, bear, coyote or other wildlife, causing you personal injury, you can rarely bring a personal injury lawsuit (but you can bring an accident benefits claim—for more on this, see below). A lawsuit against the governmental body (city, county, or province) responsible for the roadway could be viable in certain circumstances if reasonable precautions were not taken to prevent animals from entering the roadway.


Lawyers in Orillia, Barrie, Midland, Collingwood, and surrounding areas regularly handle these types of cases. The question of who bears responsibility can be tricky when it comes to wildlife-related injuries. Read on for information about determining liability, ways to seeks compensation, and road safety tips.


Who Is Responsible in Animal Vehicle Collisions?


Animal vehicle collisions are extremely common. In fact, in Canada there are 4 to 8 large animal vehicle collisions every hour. The issue of liability for such accidents depends on the situation. For example:

  • If you’re driving and your vehicle strikes a deer, moose, elk, bear, coyote or other wildlife, causing you personal injury, you can’t bring a personal injury lawsuit (but you can bring an accident benefits claim—for more on this, see below).

  • If you’re a passenger in a vehicle that strikes a deer, moose, elk, bear, coyote or other wildlife, causing you personal injury, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused your injuries, and you are entitled to make an accident benefits claim.

  • If you’re a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or cyclist injured in a collision with another driver who negligently operated their vehicle to avoid striking a wild animal, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused your injuries, and you are entitled to make an accident benefits claim.

  • If you are injured in an accident on a public highway involving another type of animal (e.g., horse, cow, sheep) that has escaped from it’s owner’s property, you’re entitled to make an accident benefits claim and you may also be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the animal’s owner. Owners of livestock and certain other types of animals have a legal duty to take reasonable care to keep their animal off public highways.


Understanding Wildlife Behavior: Prevention and Safety Measures


There are a number of things you can do to stay safe on the roads and avoid wildlife animal collisions. The top tips for reducing the chance of a collision are:

1. Watch for wildlife warning signs. These are usually yellow diamond-shaped signs that warn of potential animal hazards ahead.

2. Reduce your vehicle’s speed so you have time to steer away from hazards in the roadway. Faster speed means less vehicle control and more time/distance to bring your vehicle to a stop. It also increases the force of the impact if you do collide with an animal.

3. Make yourself visible to wildlife by using headlights (or high beams when possible).

4. Be especially cautious between dusk and dawn when visibility is low and animals are more active.


If you see wildlife while driving, try to honk or flash your vehicle’s lights to alert the animal. If the animal does not move out of the way, what you do next depends on the situation and the type of animal you encounter. For smaller animals such as birds or squirrels, don’t take unsafe evasive actions. Swerving to avoid a small animal can take you into the path of an oncoming car or off into the ditch, which will cause more property damage and personal injury than hitting a small animal.


However, if the animal is larger (e.g., moose, bear, horse), take any evasive actions you can to avoid hitting it, whether it is slowing down, braking, or swerving. Hitting a larger animal with your vehicle is much more likely to result in serious personal injury or fatality and extensive property damage.


Seeking Compensation: Legal Remedies and Insurance Claims


If you are injured in an animal vehicle collision, you should get advice from an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. As mentioned above, you’re entitled to claim accident benefits, regardless of fault for the accident, and even if it was a single-car accident. The amount of accident benefits you’re entitled to depends on the nature of your injuries and whether your injuries are minor, non-catastrophic, or catastrophic. Depending on how and where the accident occurred, you may also be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault party to recover compensation for your injuries.


You don’t have to navigate the insurance claims process or legal system on your own. Our personal injury and long term disability lawyers in Orillia and Barrie are here to provide you with trusted legal advice. We also serve clients in Midland, Collingwood, and surrounding areas. Connect with us today to arrange for your free initial consultation with one of the experienced lawyers at Littlejohn Barristers.


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