What Should You Do When You Hit an Animal on the Road?

Driving through the open country can be beautiful and serene, but there’s the risk of an accident with an animal on the road. If you’ve ever hit an animal while driving, you know how serious the impact can be. An animal’s body can be hard and unforgiving, even when compared to the steel of an automobile. What’s more, they don’t have seatbelts or airbags to protect them from the impact like humans do, so there are several steps you should take to help ensure their safety and yours.

This guide will walk you through what to do when you hit an animal car and how to keep everyone safe after the impact.

If the Animal is Still Alive

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve hit a deer or other animal, and it is still alive, stay in your car. The injured animal may be frightened by your presence and can attack if you get out of your vehicle. When an animal feels threatened or cornered, he might try to fight his way out — and that could mean injuring you. And don’t give chase; doing so could put you at risk of getting hurt as well. If it’s a pet or a small animal, try to see if you can remove its collar and resuscitate it to help it breathe. 

Instead, wait for help from a police officer who can safely remove any remaining animals from harm’s way without further endangering anyone. Also, try to signal other ongoing cars to stop traffic. Try using your hazard lights and turning on your headlights, too; that will make it clear there has been an accident, and everyone should slow down.

For small mammals like rabbits, cats, or dogs, handle them with care. Use gloves because they bite or scratch when injured or stressed. Put these gloves on quickly before touching them so you won’t cause them stress by startling them if you reach them with bare hands.

If the Animal has Died

Contact your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or police station to alert them that you’ve hit a wild animal. If you’re in a remote area with no cell service, drive to a safe place and call for help as soon as possible. Most DNR stations have forms on hand that you can fill out and turn in when you bring in the dead animal.

Each state has different rules about how to properly dispose of a dead deer or another small game animal; be sure to follow all instructions provided by your local office. Keep in mind that animals picked up within city limits should be reported directly to your city’s department rather than a state agency. If you hit a pet, check their collars to see if they have their owner’s contact. 

Call the Police and Report the Accident

If you hit a deer or another animal and it’s still alive, call 911. File a police report and keep your insurance information up to date with your local state. If you’re given a citation at the scene of an accident involving damage to property or personal injury, call your insurance agent right away, so they can start working on your case. Keep in mind that if you don’t have auto insurance, it will be difficult to recover any losses from liability claims against other drivers — your claim might even be denied.

Check for Injuries

Although you may be momentarily distracted when you hit an animal in your car, check for any visible injuries on both it and yourself. If either of you has suffered any harm during the collision, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. For minor injuries, clean up cuts and scrapes with soap and water, disinfect wounds using rubbing alcohol or peroxide, and apply bandages as needed.

For injured animals that you can’t take to a vet or wildlife rehabilitation center, call your local authorities for further advice or assistance. Never approach a wild animal unless instructed by a professional wildlife rehabilitator — the stress from even a small interaction could put them into shock.

Take Pictures

Take pictures of the animal’s location and any visible injuries. These can come in handy if you need to file a claim with your insurance company for repairs or injuries sustained by your passengers as a result of hitting an animal. Make sure to include landmarks and specific directions that will be helpful for first responders. You should also take photos of your car — including before-and-after shots — so that you have evidence about how much damage was caused when hitting an animal. It can help ensure you receive compensation from any available insurance coverage.

Call a Lawyer If You’re Liable for Damages 

If someone is suing you for damages to their pet or livestock because of an accident caused by your vehicle, then you’ll want to call a reliable car accident attorney. Most states require that drivers carry insurance; if you’re driving without insurance and someone’s pet dies due to your car hitting it, that person can file a small claims case against you or even file criminal charges in some areas.

If you are certain that your car has hit a wild animal and there is no chance it survived, move your vehicle out of traffic. Call local authorities for further instructions if you’re not sure how to proceed. Try to assess the situation and remember to not panic.

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