Typically, you won’t see wild animals walking around West Palm Beach, Miami, or Key West. But when you drive near the Everglades, the Tamiami Trail, and points north, you are likely to see deer and other animals grazing by the roadside, in a field, or in a wooded area. This is something our West Palm Beach car accident law firm knows very well.

Most of these animals will not stop for oncoming traffic when they cross a highway. In many cases, motorists don’t see animals on the road until it’s too late.

If you hit a wild animal, you’ll have to deal with your own insurance company, and you won’t be able to take any legal action. If a farm animal causes a traffic accident, you’ll have legal rights, and if you’re injured in such a crash, you’ll need to know and exercise those rights.

Farm animals rarely cause accidents, but if they’re not properly secured, these creatures – especially cows and horses, because of their size and weight – can cause serious accidents and severe injuries.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS IF A FARM ANIMAL’S OWNER IS NEGLIGENT?

If you are injured on a Florida road or highway because you collided with – or swerved to avoid – a farm animal on the loose, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the owner.  You may even be able to win reimbursement for your medical bills and related expenses.

cows grazing

In fact, if you are injured in any accident in Florida because someone else was negligent, it’s imperative to discuss your case immediately with an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney.

In rural areas, drivers will sometimes notice warning signs that deer may be crossing. Skunks and raccoons, for example, can often be seen in rural settings. But you do not expect to see hogs, cows, or horses on the highway.

WHAT IS A LIVESTOCK OWNER’S RESPONSIBILITY?

If you do see farm animals on the road, it’s probably because someone at a nearby farm has negligently left the creatures free to roam.

If a traffic crash happens because of a farm animal that has a legal owner, and if you’re injured in that accident, the owner can be held accountable for damages. Livestock owners are required by law to keep their livestock safely restrained.

If a farm animal gets loose, and if you are injured by colliding with it or by trying to avoid a collision, the animal’s owner may be legally negligent. These incidents often happen at night, when motorists are unable to see animals clearly on dark, rural roadways.

Swerving to avoid an animal can have fatal consequences – you could swerve into another vehicle or even a tree. At highway speeds, a sudden stop can cause whiplash – especially if the driver behind you isn’t able to stop.

CAN YOU BE COMPENSATED FOR INJURIES CAUSED BY ANIMALS?

Of course, to recover compensation from an animal’s owner, who that owner is must be determined.

If a farm animal gets loose and you are injured in an accident involving the animal, the owner may be deemed legally negligent and ordered to compensate you for your injuries. You’ll need the help of a good personal injury lawyer.

cows in farm

If a farm animal – or even a large dog – gets loose because the animal’s owner neglected to close a fence, that owner can be held accountable for your personal injury or injuries. Compensation in these cases is usually paid from the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

DOES “STRICT LIABILITY” APPLY TO FARM ANIMAL OWNERS IN FLORIDA?

However, if you’re injured because an animal gets loose, and if the animal’s owner can prove that it was not his or her fault that the animal got loose, it’s possible that you may not be able to pursue or receive compensation.

In some states, “strict liability” applies to the owners of farm animals, making them liable for all injuries caused by their animals.

But in Florida, the state’s Supreme Court (in Selby v. Bullock, 1973) has determined that strict liability doesn’t apply in cases involving farm animals, so you and your attorney must prove that an animal’s owner was negligent for a personal injury claim against that owner to prevail.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE HURT IN AN ACCIDENT WITH AN ANIMAL?

After any traffic collision, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you don’t feel injured, you may have sustained a latent or difficult-to-detect injury that could later emerge as a serious medical situation.

injured hand

After obtaining medical care, contact a qualified South Florida personal injury lawyer at once if you have been injured in any incident involving an animal. After reviewing the details of the accident and your injury, your attorney can recommend the best way to move forward.

You must act quickly. If you are injured because a farm animal’s owner was negligent and you choose to seek compensation, the statute of limitations in Florida gives the injured victims of negligence four years from the date of the injury to file a claim and initiate the legal process.

HOW SOON SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO AN ACCIDENT LAWYER?

What you cannot do is wait four years and then scramble to file a personal injury lawsuit at the last minute. Don’t even wait four weeks to speak with an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney. The sooner you put a good lawyer on the case, the more likely you are to prevail.

Of course, you must drive carefully and cautiously, especially in rural areas at night. If you are deemed negligent and responsible for your own injuries, you could end up receiving nothing from another party after an accident.

An injury victim won’t have to pay anything for a first legal consultation. Florida’s personal injury lawyers provide a free first consultation, so you’ll be able to learn more about your rights and about where you stand legally – at no cost to you.

WILL YOU HAVE TO APPEAR IN COURT?

If you choose to take legal action, you’ll pay no attorney’s fee until your accident attorney recovers compensation on your behalf. Most accident cases in Florida are resolved privately and out-of-court, so most victims of negligence never even have to appear in a courtroom.

lawyers negotiating settlement

Of course, in some cases, no out-of-court settlement will be possible, and your lawyer may recommend taking the case to court, so you must be represented by a South Florida accident lawyer who has substantial trial experience.

A good accident attorney’s help is your right, and in fact, if you’ve been seriously injured, your future could depend on it.