Motorists have plenty to worry about when they start their engines, buckle their seat belts and put their vehicle in gear. The roadways are fraught with agitation, annoyance and potential danger. Motorists who are distracted, drunk or just plain dumb pose a threat to us all. Weather-related hazards can come into play unexpectedly (and with devastating results). The conditions of the roads themselves can cause cars to lose control and crash.
Like a Deer in the Headlights
Sometimes, though, the cause of an accident or injury can be something entirely different and unexpected: Livestock. When cars meet cows (or other large animals) the result is usually quite of bit of mayhem on everyone’s part. Wild animals are also the cause of many collisions, and when that unfortunately occurs, insurance companies cut checks to make motorists whole.
It All Depends…
When livestock is involved, though, compensation becomes more complicated. The laws on who bears liability for animals being in the roadway actually varies from state to state, with the issue of grazing along fenced or unfenced roads being the primary legal focus. In California, the livestock owner has a duty to keep his animals off the roadways. In Butte County, a famous case involved 21 buffalos causing numerous injuries and damage, leaving the owner in jeopardy of liability.
In New Mexico, it was determined that those who are responsible for maintaining a roadway would have to cover losses if they had failed to fence a roadway which traversed open grazing lands. It also depends on whether or not the animals were grazing or had excaped. There is also nothing to prevent the livestock owner from suing the motorist for the loss of his cow. All of these things have undoubtedly been factored in by insurance companies whose policies cover the grazing areas of the Western United States.