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Negligence in Animal-Vehicle Collisions

Animal-vehicle collisions are an ongoing and serious problem in Ontario.  Although more prevalent along rural roads and highways, collisions with animals often occur around urban centers as well. According to the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, there are 4 to 8 large animal-vehicle collisions every hour in Canada, which is a staggering number. Animal-vehicle collisions significantly affect the well-being of drivers, passengers, as well as Canada’s wildlife population.  In some cases, careless driving or improper care of farm animals and pets is the causal factor in animal-vehicle collisions.

The majority of animal-vehicle collisions involve deer; while moose, elk, bear and coyotes also contribute significantly to the problem.  On Christmas Day in 2013, a 31 year old man driving a Honda Civic was killed near Oxford Station just south of Ottawa, when a deer was struck by another vehicle and was catapulted into the air hitting him and his vehicle.  In April 2015, a woman struck 2 moose, a mother and her calf, at dusk on Hwy 522 near Commanda south of North Bay.  The driver’s side of the car was severely damaged but the woman, the sole occupant of the vehicle, survived the crash.  Just a few months later in June 2015, the driver of an SUV was killed after hitting a moose and subsequently crashing into another vehicle on Hwy 17 just south of Sudbury.  The SUV passenger and driver of the second vehicle were injured as well.  OPP warned drivers that large numbers of swarming insects in Northern Ontario were forcing moose onto the roads in larger numbers.

Collisions with wild animals are most common during dawn and dusk.  Smaller animals such as racoons, rabbits and squirrels are often hit, but far less likely to result in injury particularly if the driver does not swerve to avoid the animal without first carefully checking whether it is safe to do so (i.e. whether no other vehicles or obstructions will be struck).

Although less common in Ontario, collisions with farm animals sometimes result in severe injury or fatalities to vehicle occupants who unexpectedly come upon these animals on Ontario roads.  A 44 year old father suffered fatal injuries in October 2013 after striking a cow that had wandered from a farmer’s field onto County Rd 4 near Warsaw and south of Lindsay. The front end of the car, a Toyota Tercel, was crushed and the roof, rear window and windshield were cut off from the impact with the cow.   In the summer of 2015, an Ancaster driver narrowly escaped serious personal injury after quickly swerving, in an effort to avoid a horse that had wandered onto the road.  Unfortunately, the driver was not quick enough and ended up hitting and ultimately killing the horse, which had been part of a show at the Ancaster Fairgrounds. 

In some cases, collisions with animals resulting in serious injury can be attributed to the fault of another person, either a property owner or another driver.  When an animal has been allowed to roam free onto a road and someone is killed as a result, the owner of the animal has some responsibility for this catastrophic event.  Also, if careless driving is a factor in an animal collision, severe injury to passengers or other vehicle occupants may be attributed to negligence.   Not unlike any other motor vehicle accident, animal-vehicle collisions are more likely to occur when the driver exhibits negative driving habits or fails to drive defensively.

Distracted Driving – There is often very little warning before an animal runs onto the road and it can be very difficult for a driver to react quickly if they are distracted by texting or talking on their phone or in any way not focused on their driving. Distracted driving is, on its own,  a significant problem and the cause of many vehicular accidents. Coupled with the unexpected presence of animals on the road, the outcome is sometimes disastrous for all involved.

Driving Under The Influence – It is never appropriate to drive under the influence of alcohol or any type of drugs. Both can significantly impair the driver’s judgement and capability behind the wheel which in turn decreases their ability to think and react quickly, in the event of the unexpected presence of an animal.

Speeding – Speeding is another significant cause of vehicular accidents and it too can exacerbate the issue of animal-vehicle collisions, as the driver may be travelling too fast to successfully brake or slow-down in the sudden presence of an animal on the road.

Poor weather conditions and reduced visibility, such as snowstorms, icy roads, fog and twilight can impair a driver’s vision or make it difficult to react in time.  Although darkness is a significant factor in animal-vehicle collisions, any of these situations may contribute to these events. In particular, the combination of poor driving conditions and any of the negative driving habits listed above, with the unexpected presence of a large animal can equal a catastrophic accident.

Animal-vehicle collisions have been known to result in mild to serious and catastrophic injuries, as well as death. More often than not, the driver usually ends up with some kind of vehicular damage even when they are quick enough to avoid slamming into the animal. Drivers who attempt to avoid the animal often strike a pole, tree or another driver.  Any of these situations typically results in increased personal injury and significant property damage.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries as a result of an animal-vehicle collision or any other type of accident, contact our Lindsay Personal Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) law office. Our empathetic and highly skilled group of lawyers are always ready and available to advise you on the strength of your claim and optimum course of action. Our goal is to get you the benefits you deserve and are owed. Call or visit us for a free consultation, where you will be given an honest and frank assessment of your best legal options. You can also utilize our free online consultation form. 


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