Am I At Fault For Hitting a Deer?

deer-682198212During the fall and winter, wildlife – especially deer – seem to be in abundance while foraging for food along our highways.  This presents a danger to drivers using area roads. In addition, deer are primarily nocturnal animals, which make them that much more difficult to spot.

So, if you do hit a deer with your vehicle are you automatically found at fault for the collision?

The answer to the question is not black and white. The courts have stated that fault in these types of collisions will depend on all the circumstances of the case.

In the 2006 decision of Fajardo v. Horianopoulos, 2006 BCSC 147, the driver who hit a moose had not been speeding and the area was not marked with any warning signs to indicate moose activity. The Court found that the driver was not negligent in hitting the moose. However, I would note that the driver did not pull his vehicle off the road and failed to keep his lights on to warn other drivers. As a result a vehicle, who tried to avoid the parked vehicle on the roadway swerved and hit the moose carcass on the road. The Court found the first driver was negligent for the second collision as he ought to have moved his vehicle off the roadway.

In the 2014 decision of Knight (Litigation guardian of) v. Knight, 2014 BCSC 1478, the driver was found at fault for a collision with a moose. Although the driver was going the posted speed limit there was evidence that indicated the driver had about 5 seconds after seeing something on the road but did not take any evasive action. As a result, the passenger suffered personal injuries following the accident.

Although the cases above were specifically related to moose, the legal principles can be applied to accident involving deer or any large wildlife. Ultimately, the courts will look at all the factors of a case to determine whether the driver is at fault for a collision.

That being said, here are a few driving tips to remember this fall:

  1. Where there is one deer there are many, so slow down.
  2. Use your high beams when possible on back roads and on poorly lit highways
  3. Watch for wildlife crossing signs.
  4. Pay attention for wildlife at night.

If you don’t already have UMP coverage, this time of year is also a good time to consider getting it. Underinsured Motorist Protection coverage, also known as UMP coverage, will protect you if you are in an accident and the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to cover your claim. In other words, you may not be fully compensated for your injuries unless you purchase your own UMP coverage.

Under basic ICBC UMP coverage you will automatically receive $1,000,000. However medical costs for significant personal injuries can add up quickly, especially in cases where you or your family member will require long term care or at home assistance. Obtaining additional UMP coverage, for a relatively small yearly cost of approximately $25, will ensure you are protected despite the fact that another motorist is underinsured.

If you have had the unfortunate experience of being in an accident, contact me for a free ½ hour consultation to discuss your options or (250) 448-7200.

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The lawyers at Hemmerling & Associates Law Office do not provide legal advice over the internet or to the public at large. We provide legal advice only to clients of our firm. Nothing on the Hemmerling & Associates Law Office website, blog, Facebook or Google+ page is to be taken as legal advice.

Each individual case requires that we review the specific facts and documents in order to research and provide an appropriate legal opinion. While the information contained on these forums is about legal issues, it is not legal advice. All non-legal professionals are urged to seek legal advice from a lawyer.



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