Over the years, we have received calls from several people who have had a collision with a deer or other animal. In many of those occasions, we have had to tell the individual that there is not much you can do unless the deer had an insurance policy (as of this post, we have pretty much determined that there has never been such a situation). But, sometimes there are actions that can be taken to obtain compensation.
For example, it was reported in yesterday’s Birmingham News that U.S. District Judge William Acker, Jr. awarded $960,832.00 to a Shelby County man whose wife was killed when a deer ran onto the road and caused her to lose control of her car. In that case, Kellie Pieniozek had a life insurance policy which the company refused to pay. So, Donald Pieniozek employed an attorney to bring a bad faith and breach of contract claim against the insurance company. In that case, there was life insurance available, but that will be the rare situation.
What if the person is not killed? Well, in the case of the deer, you are probably out of luck. But, if it is a farm animal or dog, you may still have a claim. With a farm animal, the law is difficult at best. You essentiallly have to prove that the owner placed the animal in the roadway. However, with a dog, you may have some other alternatives.
What are those alternatives? Well, if the accident occurs in the city limits, there might be a city ordinance which requires all dogs to be on a leash or fenced in. If the accident occurs in the county, you should look to see whether the county has adopted the State statute governing dogs running at large. See Section 3-1-5 of the Code of Alabama. If so, you may have a claim against the homeowner and the homeowner’s insurance policy. We have used this statute in a case where our client was on a motorcycle, and the homeowner’s dog ran in front of the motorcycle. The jury ruled in our favor in that case.
So, if you or someone you know is in a car accident with an animal, your chances of compensation are minimal. But they are not impossible. So, you should always consider your options.