Hitting an animal while you’re driving is traumatic enough without having to worry about what you should and shouldn’t do next. Here, we take a look at what steps you should take if you’re unfortunate enough to hit deer, other wildlife or someone’s pet.
If I hit a deer while driving do I need to tell the police?
Yes, if you hit a deer while driving, you should tell the police. Before you do, you should pull over where it is safe to do so and put your hazard lights on. Take some time to assess the situation and if you need to get out of the car, you should take care as you could be in shock.
If you or any of your passengers are injured, you should call an ambulance first, followed by the police to let them know what’s happened. Whether the deer is injured or has sadly died, they’ll be able to remove it and prevent it from becoming a hazard to other road users.
Do I need to report hitting all animals to the police?
The short answer is no, you don’t have to tell the police about every animal you’ve accidently hit while driving. The only ones you do need to report are set out under the Road Traffic Act 1988; which are:
- Donkeys and mules
If you’re unfortunate enough to hit any of these animals, you must let the police know as soon as possible and within 24 hours.
If you find other dead animals in the road (such as foxes or badgers), you should call the local council who will be able to remove it safely.
What happens if I hit a wild animal or livestock?
If you hit farm animals not covered by the Road Traffic Act 1988, you should still tell the police. They can then investigate whether the farm was at fault—for example, if someone left a gate open.
Who do I tell if I hit a cat while I’m driving?
Knowing you’ve hit someone’s pet can be twice as upsetting but cats are frequent victims thanks to their independent natures. If the owner is nearby, let them know what’s happened.
If you can’t find the owner and there’s no tag on the collar, take the cat to the nearest vet, explain what’s happened and make it clear you’re not the animal’s owner. A lot of cats are microchipped so if it has been, the vet will be able to contact its owner.
How can I help an injured animal?
Wild animals when injured can be dangerous so help is best left to the professionals. So, if you spot an injured animal in the road, you can call the following animal welfare groups:
- RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—call 0300 1234 999.
- SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—call 03000 999 999.
- USPCA (Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)—call 028 3025 1000.
Do I need to tell my insurer if I’ve hit an animal?
You should tell your car insurance company if you’ve hit an animal, even if you don’t intend to make a claim. Some policies do specify whether or not you need to let your insurer know so it’s worth double checking what you need to do.
Can I get compensation if I hit an animal and it’s caused damage to my car?
If you have comprehensive cover, you could make a claim on your insurance policy. Remember that if you do make a claim on your policy, it’s likely to affect your no claims bonus which could lead to a higher premium at renewal.
If you think you might want to make a claim, gather as much evidence as you can from the incident. Take photos, make a note of the time and weather and also check any nearby fencing for holes where animals may have escaped through.
Whether not you can make a claim and hold someone else liable for the incident (for example, the pet owner) will depend on the circumstances. For instance, if an owner didn’t have their dog under control and it ran into the road causing damage to your car, you may have a case for compensation.
However, in this sort of situation, your actions would also be taken into consideration. So, if you were speeding and didn’t have adequate time to stop, which led to hitting the dog, you could be considered equally at fault.
How can I cut the risk of hitting an animal while driving?
Hitting a large animal like a deer or cow can cause serious damage, but while you can’t avoid bad luck, there are some things you can do to minimise the chances of hitting an animal.
Here’s what you can do:
- Check your speed speeding makes it much harder to stop so stick to the limits, especially in towns and built-up areas where pet cats and dogs are more likely to be.
- Use full-beam lights – especially if you’re driving on rural roads where animals can make a sudden appearance.
- Keep your distance – be mindful of any other cars around you, being too close to the car in front increases the risk of an accident if you need to swerve or suddenly stop to avoid an animal.
- Be aware of warning signs – known animal hotspots are usually well signposted so always make sure you pay attention, especially along country roads where there may be horse riders.
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