Common Causes of Auto and Truck Accidents
From the Ozark Mountains to the delta Arkansas is full of natural beauty. That’s why it is known as the “natural state.” However, this natural beauty comes with a price, and Arkansas drivers know all too well the perils of driving on rural roads in the state. After all, Arkansas is home to numerous wildlife, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, wild hogs, skunks, possums, and even black bears.
Many of Arkansas’s most traveled roads cut through some of their natural habitats. As a result, drivers have an increased chance of encountering a variety of wildlife on the roads. In addition to wildlife, there are also numerous livestock farms and ranches across the state, further increasing your chance of getting into a collision with an animal. Hitting an animal on the road can cause severe damage to your vehicle, and can even cause you to crash into another vehicle.
If you’ve been injured in an animal collision in Arkansas, you may believe that there is nothing you can do. However, this may not be the case. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our animal collision lawyers know how to handle these complex and unique cases. Call us at (800) 767-4815 to learn how we can help you during this difficult time.
What Kind of Insurance Protects Me
When you are involved in a collision with an animal on the road, there may not be an “at fault” party to blame. However, you should be able to turn to your own insurance company to help repair the damage to your car and cover any damages you caused to other people’s vehicles.
Collision insurance coverage helps you pay to repair or replace your car if it’s damaged in an accident. If you own this type of insurance, you can file a claim with your insurance company to help get your car repaired. For example, if you swerved to avoid hitting an animal and then ran off the road and into a tree or another car, you could file a claim to help repair the damages.
Unfortunately, not all Arkansas drivers own this type of coverage because collision insurance is optional. Only liability insurance is required in order to operate a motor vehicle on Arkansas roads.
Comprehensive insurance coverage is another type of optional insurance policy that could come in handy if you’re involved in an animal collision. Comprehensive insurance is a coverage that helps pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged in an incident that is not considered an accident or collision. Damage done to your vehicle from an animal collision would fall under this category.
How to Avoid Animal Accidents
Unfortunately, not all animal accidents are avoidable. Wild animals are unpredictable and may dart out in front of your vehicle without warning. However, there are ways to reduce your chances of being injured in an animal collision.
- Stay alert – When driving, it is important to remain alert at all times. Scan your surroundings for wildlife on the side of the road and use extra caution when rounding blind corners or bends. Look for “glowing eyes” at night, which is a sign that animals are present.
- Slow down – The most important way to avoid an animal collision is to slow down on the road. Give yourself more time to stop, especially in rural areas where wildlife is present.
- Use high beams – Your high beams will increase your visibility on the road. This can help you see wildlife in the distance and give you more time to stop when you see one.
- Use your horn – If an animal is near the road, try honking your horn in a series of short bursts. This may scare them away and alert other drivers to their presence.
- Don’t tailgate – It is important to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. If that driver were to brake for an animal in the road, you want enough time to be able to react appropriately.
What to Do After Getting into an Accident with an Animal
If you are involved in an accident with an animal, it is important to know what to do immediately after the accident.
- Move your vehicle off the road to a safer location if possible
- Remain calm
- Call local law enforcement
- Put hazard lights on to alert other drivers
- Take pictures or videos of the scene from a safe location
- If the animal is alive, don’t touch it or attempt to move it
Hitting Livestock on the Road: Who is Responsible?
While having a collision with a farm animal may seem like a freak accident, it is an all-too-common occurrence, especially in a rural state such as Arkansas. While practicing in Arkansas, we regularly hear people say, “I just hit a cow, what do I do now?” So, if you ever find yourself in this situation, here are a few things to keep in mind.
To begin, Arkansas case law defines livestock as including “horses, mules, cattle, goats, sheep, swine, chickens, ducks, and similar animals and fowl commonly raised or used for farm purposes.” Smith v. R.A. Brooks Trucking Co., 280 Ark. 510, 660 S.W.2d 1 (1983).
The court has gone on further to delineate liability when an accident with livestock occurs. The court has stated, “It is well established that the owner of livestock is liable when damage results from intentionally or negligently permitting animals to run at large.” Smith v. R.A. Brooks Trucking Co., 280 Ark. 510, 660 S.W.2d 1 (1983). Therefore, if you are ever involved in a collision that results in property or bodily injury with a farm animal, don’t fret. With a little bit of leg work, you should be able to prove the livestock owner is liable for your damages.
To prove that the livestock owner is liable for the damages associated with a collision between their animal, and your car or person, Arkansas case law has set out what the plaintiff–the injured party–needs to show. First, in Oliver v. Jones, 239 Ark., 393 S.W.2d 248, 249, 1965 Ark., the court stated that the burden is on the injured party to show that the owner of the livestock is guilty of negligence in allowing their livestock to be on the highway. The plaintiff in Oliver v. Jones, was able to do this through testimony of the sheriff that the property owner had a plethora of complaints about cattle running at large on the highway, a witness testifying that he saw the livestock owner’s cattle on the highway at the point where the collision occurred, and another witness who testified that he too saw the livestock owner’s cattle in the highway the day the collision occurred.
The court went on further to state that mere knowledge of the animals being “at large” isn’t enough. This is due to the fact that livestock animals are generally large creatures that can escape their enclosures, and the courts don’t want to punish farmers for freak accidents occurring, such as cattle running through a fence during a storm.
In Miller v. Nix, 315 Ark. 868 S.W.2d 1994 Ark, the court stated, “While the evidence showed that the owner’s fence was in need of repair, no holes were found through which a cow could escape. Further, the driver presented no direct evidence to prove the owner owned the cow that was struck.”
Therefore, when you have a collision with a farm animal, you need to immediately start looking for an area where the property owner’s livestock could have escaped their enclosures, e.g., holes in fences, lack of a chicken coop, open or faulty gate, etc., take pictures, and find evidence of who owns the livestock and the property they escaped from.
Once you have done that, you then need to see if any neighbors or witnesses have complained of such and check the sheriff’s log as well for complaints.
We’re There When You Need Us
If you are involved in an accident with an animal, you may be able to collect compensation from your insurance company or the owner of the animal. These cases can be difficult, however, and require the services of an experienced and skilled Arkansas car accident attorney. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our car accident attorneys fight aggressively for your future and will negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf every step of the way.
We’re taking care of you.
No matter where you are injured, our attorneys are ready to assist you. With six offices in Arkansas and Tennessee—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, and Memphis—our car and truck accident lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured.