Imagine you are driving down the road and out of nowhere a
deer sprints out of the woods and into your car. This actually happens quite
often, while nationwide statistics are not available, in 2010 experts estimate
that 30,866 deer were hit by cars in
New Jersey alone.
Now imagine that instead of deer, the animal you hit is a
cow or a horse that has gotten loose from a nearby farm. While a deer will
certainly damage your vehicle, having a collision with a horse will put some
serious dents in your car.
So who is responsible for the damage when a farm animal
wanders onto the highway? As with most things insurance related, the answer
will vary depending on the state that you live in.
The first problem you are going to have is finding the owner
of the animal. A horse can wander for miles if it is running loose. The police
can help in these types of situations, running hair samples on the animal, of
course not all police departments are willing to go the extra mile. In the
majority of cases, the easiest solution is to make a claim against your own
In order to file an insurance claim on this type of accident
you will have to carry comprehensive coverage which protects your car when it
is damaged by animals, flood, fire and other incidents that do not involve a
collision with another vehicle. If you are only carrying liability coverage you
will need to track down the owner of the animal because your insurer is not
going to pay for the damage.
While it can vary by insurer, the majority will cover damage
from animals such as deer, elk, dogs, birds, horses and cows. Even if you are
carrying comprehensive you are still going to be spending some money, as you
will be responsible for your deductible. Hopefully, your insurance company will
be able to track down the owner and recover the cost of your deductible if it
is determined that the owner was at fault.
You Could End Up
Paying for the Cow
Whether or not the animal owner is liable depends on what
state you are driving in when the accident happens. In most states, if the owner
knowingly let the horse out onto the road they will be held liable for the
accident and the damage done to your car.
If the horse got loose unbeknownst to the owner due to a
vandalized fence or even a prank there is a good chance that the owner will not
be held responsible for the accident. The state the accident happened in will also
affect the outcome. A number of western states still have free or open range
laws that let both farm and domestic animals roam freely. While some laws have
been updated to keep animals off the roads, others still allow free roaming
just about anywhere.
If you end up in a completely free roaming state, it is
possible that you could be found liable for the cost of the animal. States that
have updated their laws, such as Texas
give immunity to drivers who kill or injury animals that are on the highway or
Your Insurer Should
These types of claims tend to be complicated so filing with
your insurer and letting them do the legwork to determine fault and liability
is usually the best way to handle a farm animal accident. Your adjuster should
be able to track down the owner, investigate local laws and assign fault. If
you are found not at fault the animal owner should cover your deductible.
In most cases a comprehensive claim will not
raise your rates. If your rates are raised consider shopping around for a new