What to do if you hit an animal with your car

What to do if you hit an animal with your car
Hitting an animal with your car is a very rare event, but can naturally be very stressful.

Read on for our advice on what to do and who to call if you hit any animal with your car.

What to do when you hit an animal

If you hit an animal with your car you should turn your hazards on, stop the car as soon as it’s safe to do so and switch off the engine.

Check yourself and any passengers for injuries and exit the car safely.

If you hit any of the following animals you’ll need to tell the police:

  • dogs
  • horses
  • cattle
  • pigs
  • goats
  • sheep
  • donkeys and mules

Watch the animal from a safe distance to see if it’s injured. If you think it might be, call one of the following:

  • RSPCA (England and Wales) on 0300 1234 999
  • Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scotland) on 03000 999 999
  • Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Northern Ireland) on 028 3025 1000

Injured animals might become aggressive if they’re hurt or frightened, so think carefully before you approach them. You should wait until the police and/or animal charity arrive to give them your details.

Is it illegal to hit an animal and drive away?

Yes. You have to tell the police if you hit any of the animals mentioned above.

Although this means you don’t have to report every accident, you could help to save the life of a badger, fox or other small animal if you report the incident to the RSPCA (England and Wales), the SSPCA (Scotland) or the USPCA (Northern Ireland).

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What should I do if an animal is dead on the road?

You should always report a dead animal on the road to your local council.

If you can safely move the body to the side of the road to prevent obstruction and further accidents you can do so.

What should I do if I hit a pet cat or pet dog?

If you hit someone’s pet you’ll need to consider the owner as well as the animal.

First, check your immediate surroundings for the owner. If they’re near the scene of the accident they may be distressed, so you should try to stay calm and share your details with them.

If you hit a dog you’ll need to call the police. Unfortunately for their owners, if you hit a cat you don’t need to do so. 

If the owner is nowhere to be seen, try looking for contact details on the animal’s collar. Explain to the owner what’s happened to their pet and offer them your contact details. 

If the owner isn’t nearby or if there are no contact details on a collar, the RSPCA might be able to check the animal for a microchip to trace the owner. 

Read our advice for what to do if your dog has been hit by a car.

What should I do if I hit a farm animal?

hit-animal-sheep-sign

You should contact the police if you hit any farm animals.

The owner of the livestock may be held liable for an accident depending on the circumstances, such as leaving a gate open.1

How does hitting an animal affect your insurance?

It’s always best to let your insurance provider know about any accident involving an animal. The terms of your insurance might require you to log an accident even if you don’t intend to make a claim. 

If you do make a claim you may be covered for damage to your car or for any injuries. However, you could lose your no claims bonus if it’s not protected.

Can I claim it was the animal’s fault?

In accidents with a farm animal or somebody's pet your insurer may decide that the animal’s owner was at fault. 

Wild animals aren’t ‘owned’ by anybody so your provider may decide that no one was liable for the accident.2

Am I liable if I have an accident when trying to avoid an animal?

If you slam on the brakes or swerve out of your lane to avoid an animal and hit another car, you may be at fault for the accident. This is generally decided on a case-by-case basis.

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How to avoid hitting an animal in future

There a few things you can do to reduce your chances of hitting an animal:

Look out for road signs

hit-animal-otter-sign

Road signs showing cattle, deer and horses are used to warn drivers about their chances of encountering animals on the road. Keep an eye out for the signs at all times.

Watch your speed 

Sticking to speed limits will reduce your chances of hitting animals no matter where you’re driving. On residential roads for example, dogs may be off their lead near parks and foxes tend to dart across the road late at night. Watching your speed will give you the best chance of reacting in time to avoid a collision.

Use lights at night 

Your headlights let animals know they should take extra care. Electric and hybrid cars have quieter engines than traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars so animals are less likely to hear them approaching. There’s never been a greater need to use your headlights, especially on rural roads. 

Keep your distance 

It’s always been a golden rule of the road but keeping your distance, especially in areas where animals are common, could make the difference between hitting a wild animal or an accident-free journey. 

Is it legal to eat roadkill?

It might not be everyone’s favourite meal but for some people roadkill is a cheap and eco-friendly source of food.

The unwritten rule is that you don’t pick up an animal that you’ve hit yourself. If you hit an animal and stop to pick it up, it could be argued that you killed it deliberately.

Remember, not every animal found dead on the road will have been hit by a car. If an animal has died because of illness, poisoning or other reasons it could be unsuitable for eating. 

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1. https://www.legalexpert.co.uk/road-traffic-accidents/claim-guide/car-road-accident-caused-by-animal-claims/
2. https://www.legalexpert.co.uk/road-traffic-accidents/claim-guide/car-road-accident-caused-by-animal-claims/

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