From pet cats sneaking out and wandering the streets to deer gallivanting around country lanes, it’s no surprise that hitting an animal with your car can be a real concern for some drivers. In fact, there are up to 74,000 deer-related car accidents a year.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have a collision with an animal, do you know what to do? And if your car is damaged as a result, can you claim on your insurance?
Being animal aware
It’s not just chickens who cross the road - understanding which animals are likely to be roaming near your routes is the best way of avoiding an unpleasant accident.
Some roads and destinations might have such a steady stream of animals crossing that there’ll be signs alerting you as you approach. Get familiar with your road signs so you know when you might be sharing the road with deer, otters or even toads.
If you’re driving along these roads with poor visibility – either at night or during foggy weather - use your lights to give yourself a chance to spot them in plenty of time.
If you’re driving along roads with warning signs for animals, keep your speed at a steady pace. Since animals have a habit of springing out of nowhere, you need to give yourself plenty of time to react safely. And if it’s wet or icy weather on an ungritted country road, your stopping distances will be greater.
Should I emergency stop for an animal?
Swerving to avoid running over a small animal might seem like the compassionate thing to do, but you could be putting other people in danger if you veer into oncoming traffic. Any sudden manoeuvres or braking could lead to an accident with another motorist, and it’ll be an accident you'll find yourself responsible for.
You should exercise common sense as to when’s safe to stop or swerve. If you can be sure there’s no-one else on the road behind you or coming your way, make some space for the little toad or the livestock.
If the animal is much bigger – say a pony or a deer – you’ll need to avoid a collision as you and your car could be damaged in the crash. If you’re keeping a slower pace and you come across a larger animal, you should have enough time to react without putting yourself or others in danger.
What's the law about hitting an animal?
The most important thing to consider after hitting an animal is your own safety, and the safety of other users of the road. After your accident, you should find a safe place to stop and pull over. Are you and any passengers unharmed? Is your car okay? If you’ve established this, you should go and check on the animal.
If the animal can be moved safely – for both you and it – you should move it so it’s not blocking the road. If the animal is injured, the RSPCA will be able to give you great advice. Call them on 0300 1234 999.
You may also need to phone the police. Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 you have a legal responsibility to inform the police if you hit a:
- Cow (or other type of cattle)
- Donkey or mule
Once you’ve reported the incident, you should follow the advice of the police. They may need you to remain at the scene long enough to collect some details for the animal's owners.
Once you're given the all-clear to leave, you don't have any further legal obligations. It's the council's responsibility to remove any wild animals from the road so contact them with the whereabouts of the animal when you can.
You can also report the location of any dead animal you come across - even if you didn't hit the animal yourself. It's not a legal obligation but it does help keep the roads safer.
Some parts of the country are prone to lots of deer on the road, which could explain why there are so many deer-related road accidents each year. You can also check out our top ten tips for avoiding deer collisions
What if I hit someone’s pet?
Hitting any animal can be upsetting but knowing it’s someone’s pet could cut that little bit deeper. As far as the law's concerned, you must report hitting a dog. If you do run over a dog, check to see if it's wearing collar and get in touch with the police ASAP.
Legally, you don’t have to report hitting a cat. However, this could change in future with a new Cats Bill being debated in parliament. Either way, cat owners will appreciate it if you check for a collar and contact the family with your whereabouts.
If the cat is injured, you might wrap it up in any blankets you have and take it to a vet. Be cautious around any wounded animals though - they could get aggressive if in pain.
Am I insured if I have a collision with an animal?
Hitting a large animal at speed can easily cause extensive damage - to both the car and the animal.
Most comprehensive policies will cover you for any damage to your vehicle that wasn’t the result of a crash with another car. If you make a claim after colliding with a wild animal, you’re likely to lose your no-claims bonus though - as well as your excess - unless you have a protected no-claims discount in place.
If you’re able to prove that the animal was a pet, farm animal or any animal otherwise owned, you can reclaim your costs through the owner if they should have kept the animal secure.
Other types of animal damage
An animal has chewed my wires, am I covered?
Squirrels, mice and other pesky rodents can sneak into your car and chew on the wiring inside it. If you have comprehensive insurance, your repairs are usually covered. But you might be asked to prove that you were keeping your car parked somewhere secure. You might not be able to make a claim if your car is in storage or parked on the street, for example.
If you're alert and 'animal aware' you should be able to avoid accidents with animals but if you are unfortunate enough to hit one, you can be sure that our 5 Star rated car insurance will always be there to help.