Ranchers and farmers have a duty to keep their livestock behind fences in most areas. They certainly are required to keep them off of federal highways. If a horse or cow is loose and causes you to have an accident, who should bear the cost of your truck’s repairs and your business’ lost income?
While truckers do their best to avoid all types of hazards in the roadways, even the best driver can’t avoid everything.
Imagine… two rogue horses
You’re driving down the highway at 2 am, you come around a curve, and there in the middle of the road are two black horses. You do your best to slow down with your heavy load. You do your best to go around the horses, but one decides to run the same way you turn. The horse hits your grill and dies on impact. You are okay, but your truck sustains a lot of damage.
After the police investigation, scene clean up, and towing of your truck to a shop, you start to consider the financial gravity of the situation. If you are an owner operator, you probably pay your own insurance premiums and try to avoid filing claims under your own policy for fear the premiums will go up or they will drop you.
What should you do?
Consider filing a claim against the owner of the livestock or with their insurance company. Hopefully, the owner of the animal’s listed on the police report. If not, you’ve got some investigating to do.
Make sure to provide the farmer and his insurance company with everything necessary to prove liability and prove damages. First, you must show that their insured (the farmer) was negligent in allowing animals to be on the road. Second, once the insurance adjuster agrees that their insured is responsible, you must prove how much is owed to you.
1. Proving liability: Take photos and videos of the livestock and the damages.
a. While at the scene, take pictures of the animal that caused the accident. Take note of any special identifying characteristics or branding. This will help identify the owner in case the police report does not state the owner.
b. If there is an open gate or broken-down fence where the animal got out, make sure you take plenty of pictures from both up close and further away. Include any rust or long term neglect to show the farmer wasn’t maintaining the fence.
c. Record the weather at the scene. Sometimes farmers will blame the escape of their animals on an “act of God” like a lightning strike that spooked them.
2. Proving damages: There’s more to damages than just fixing your truck.
a. If the repairs are significant, consider getting an independent adjuster to value your truck. If the truck’s going to be worth less post-accident, consider getting a diminished value claim.
b. Your truck may be down for a long time waiting on parts. If you can’t rent anything during the downtime, calculate your lost net income and add this to the claim.
c. Ask for reimbursement of every out-of-pocket expense you have due to the accident. This may include towing, rental of a car or truck, hotel, mileage, airline tickets and other expenses.
If negligent livestock becomes deadstock due to an unfortunate collision with your truck, know there are remedies. Consider hiring a transportation attorney to represent you and pursue every dollar you are out due to the accident. Many cases are resolved amicably with the other side rather than being pursued in court.