When an animal jumps out in front of your vehicle, your first instinct may be to slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid hitting it. This may not be the safest reaction for you or the animal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , most injuries from animal collisions occur not when animals are hit, but when the driver swerves and then crashes into another vehicle or object. In 2009, the NHTSA recorded 12,000 accidents involving animals, 173 of which were fatal (for the humans). It can be difficult to make such a quick decision, but there is a general rule of thumb for handling accidents involving animals in the road.
Accidents involving smaller animals
If the animal in front of you is smaller than the hood of your car and you don't have time to change lanes, it is safer for you to NOT swerve. These smaller animals usually include squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and foxes. Instead of swerving, tap the brakes and honk to encourage the animal to get out of the way.
Accidents involving larger animals
If the animal in the road is taller than the hood of your car, honk, slow down, and swerve as little as possible - only if there are no other vehicles around you and you are unable to change lanes. Even in this instance, it is usually safer for you to avoid swerving or losing control by driving through the animal. In the best scenario, the animal will quickly move out of the way and off the road. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
What to do if you hit an animal
As with any accident, after a collision with an animal , pull off the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic to examine yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle for any injuries or damages. Call police to report the accident and emergency responders to attend to any serious injuries. Take pictures of your vehicle, the animal that caused the accident, and any injuries sustained to thoroughly and accurately document the incident. If the animal is still alive after the accident, take necessary measures to distance yourself and others as it may be in a violent state of panic. If you are injured, get medical treatment immediately, then talk to your insurance company about covering the damages.
Hitting an animal can be a very traumatic experience, especially if you or your passengers get hurt. However, avoiding an animal can cause more problems, as you may come in contact with another vehicle in the process. If you were injured in an accident caused by a driver avoiding an animal in the road, you should talk to a knowledgeable South Carolina car accident attorney . The legal team at George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers would be happy to discuss your rights and options for filing a personal injury claim.