Animal Vehicle Collisions
Auto collisions caused by animals happen all too often in Newfoundland and Labrador. The most frequent of this type of collision is caused by wild animals. Collisions with domestic animals are not uncommon. The collision may be through a direct impact with the animal, a sudden unanticipated stop or a sudden measure to avoid collision with the animal.
Newfoundland drivers have to be aware of the risks particular to the areas and conditions where they are driving. In some areas, it is not uncommon for cats to run quickly across the path of a vehicle. In other wooded areas, it is not unusual for a fox or rabbit to run in front of a vehicle. The greatest hazard to the Newfoundland driver is a collision with a moose.
The Moose Hazard
Moose can reach 7.5 feet in height weigh up to 1,600 pounds. Despite its massive size, the moose is not an easy visual object for drivers to see. Moose blend in well with their habitat. A moose can unexpectedly come up the highway shoulder or even emerge from a highway meridian, or around a blind corner. As common as moose are, people often drive as if the moose hazard does not surround them.
Moose often travel across roads at sunset, dusk and night time. Even during the day, the colour of the moose blends in with its habitat. At night, the body of a moose is a dark non-reflective target.
Moose are most often found in low lying areas near swamp and marshy areas of Newfoundland ponds and lakes. For this reason, you will frequently encounter moose warning signage as you descend an incline into an area where the road is nearby watery habitats frequented by moose.
The moose hazard is not uncommon in populated areas due to the rapid urbanization of St. John's. The areas on either side of the Outer Ring Road remain wooded natural moose habitat. In fact, the shrinking of moose habitat increases the likelihood of moose-vehicle collision. It is a fallacy to think that you are safe simply because you are driving within municipal boundaries.
Outside urban areas, the traffic on Newfoundland highways is not very dense when the moose hazard is at its peak. So we are fortunate that moose vehicle accidents do not usually result in multiple vehicle collisions. When driving at night, in particular, you should exercise special care if you notice a vehicle parked or stopped in an unusual position. The person may have encountered a moose - in which case you should exercise a high degree of vigilance by reducing your speed and maintaining a look-out: both for moose and to see if the person needs assistance. A wounded moose can itself be a hazard. Although struck by a vehicle, a moose can regain its footing and present a greater danger to vehicles in its disoriented state.
What happens when a vehicle strikes a moose?
In the typical moose-vehicle collision, the legs of the moose are struck by the bumper of the vehicle. As the vehicle continues forward, the body of the moose is thrust onto the vehicle passenger compartment. The best example was provided in the Moose Newsletter: "Hitting a moose with a vehicle is like knocking a 500 kg block of concrete off a set of stilts."
The driver and front seat passenger are especially at grave risk of severe head, spinal cord and other bodily injury on such impact.
The risk and type of injury include speed of the vehicle on impact, type of vehicle, dimensions of the moose, the relative angle of impact of the moose to the car, where passengers are seated (generally the backseat is the safest).
Urgent medical care is usually required in these circumstances. Do what you can to render assistance. Dial 911 immediately.
Exercise Caution - Reduce the Risk of a Moose Collision
- If you see a sign that says: Caution, moose next 10 kilometers, then there may definitely be a moose on the highway at some point. Stick to the cautionary advice, be alert, and watch your speed.
- Risk of collision doubles at dawn and dusk, so be extra cautious during these times. But at night, moose, though less prevalent along the roads, are almost invisible.
- If you see a moose in the highway ahead of you, slow to a complete stop and do not commence again until you know the moose is off the highway and likely not to return; they are wild animals and can be unpredictable.
- Moose are unfortunately attracted to roads. They feed on vegetation that grows alongside the road. Due to the open windswept right-of-ways, they can get relief from annoying flies buzzing around their heads. In the winter, the roads are cleared, which makes it attractive for moose to travel back and forth between habitats.
- Just pay attention to the road and your surroundings. Don't let yourself be distracted.
Fault for Moose-Vehicle & Other Animal-Vehicle Collisions
Driving in Newfoundland brings the extra responsibility of added duty to pay due care and attention and follow the basic rules of the road to account for this hazard. If such care is not exercised, the driver may be held at fault. Additional driver responsibilities include: adapting for location, road, weather, and light conditions.
One or more drivers may be at fault for the accident. Factors that play a role in determining fault and/or proportion of fault may include:
- Drivers have to adapt to the driving environment. Night driving, poor weather conditions, driving in animal habitat, all require full driver attention and reduced speed. Drivers should drive at a speed that allows them to stop before reaching the furthest point that is illuminated by the headlights.
- Drive at a much slower speed under dangerous conditions where the forest on the side of the road has not been cleared back a considerable distance. Your chances of seeing a moose that emerges suddenly from a wooded area straight onto the road require you to take every precaution.
- Drivers should avoid all distraction in the vehicle. This includes turning your head to engage in passenger conversation, let alone eating food or looking for music, or worse operating a cell phone.
- The visibility through the windshield itself should be near perfect.
- Although it seems basic advice, drivers should use their high beams. When approaching traffic requires lights be dimmed, the driver should slow down. The light from the approaching vehicle will itself make it more difficult to detect a moose both because of the brightness of the light and the subconscious distraction towards it.
- A driver must scan both sides of the road as far ahead as possible. It is no defense to say that you did not see the moose until it was hurtling across the bonnet towards you and your passengers.
- Failure to follow moose warning signs is frequently associated with moose vehicle collisions.
- If there is evidence of moose on the road - whether from a radio traffic advisory, or unexplained stopped vehicles - drivers must exercise extra care.
- A driver is at fault if the driver thinks he or she can predict the behaviour of a moose that becomes a sudden hazard. Do not expect a moose traveling across the road to keep going; it may turn back into your lane of traffic. Do not expect a moose standing by the side of the road to wait until the vehicle has safely passed by. Vehicles must slow to a crawl and progress back to normal speed after the vehicle is a safe distance away.
- It is not uncommon for persons to come to a sudden stop for the presence of an animal on the road. A sudden stop is no excuse for a following driver to rear-end the stopped vehicle. Vehicles that encounter moose or other animals will have to stop suddenly. It is an offense to follow more closely than is reasonable and prudent. If a driver stops suddenly for a moose or other animal, the vehicle behind him may be at fault if a rear-end collision results. Such collisions will often, unfortunately, be at high speed. Such collisions are sometimes the perverse result of drivers "seeking safety in numbers." A series of vehicles follow closely together counting on the first vehicle to take the brunt of any vehicle-animal collision.
Others Who May Be at Fault
The driver is the person who has the most responsibility to take the immediate measures to prevent and avoid collision with animals. However, even if the driver could not reasonably have avoided the accident, there could still be a measure of fault with those responsible for the upkeep of the vehicle.
The driver or owner may not have properly maintained the vehicle: defective lights, tires, steering, brakes. A mechanic who negligently repaired or inspected the vehicle may have some share of the blame. These defects may have had a part to play in the accident.
Owners of domestic animals such as dogs and including cats and farm animals such as cows and horses are required to keep those animals under restraint. If the vehicle strikes a small (or large) domestic animal, the owner may be at fault for creating the road hazard that resulted in your injury or the death of a loved one. (Even if that person does not have applicable vehicle insurance, you may be able to recover against their home insurance liability provisions or against a commercial insurance policy.)
Other Sources of Assistance
Section B non-fault accident benefits may provide immediate assistance for medical needs and a modest stipend for loss of income. Other insurances coverages apply equally where persons suffer loss or death through the misfortune of a vehicle-animal collision.
Comprehensive, Resourceful Moose Accident Lawyer
Moose vehicle accidents are often traumatic and can be life-changing especially if head injury or spinal cord injury is involved. An experienced personal injury lawyer who (1) understands the challenges of proving driver fault; (2) understands the relevant law; and (3) is committed to a full and complete investigation into the facts of the accident improves your chance of succeeding in a personal injury or fatal injury claim arising from a moose and other animal accident in Newfoundland. Geoff Aylward, Newfoundland lawyer, works hard to ensure the best result a lawyer can provide for clients and their loved ones suffer injury or death in serious moose or other animal vehicle collisions and accidents. Geoff Aylward is compassionate and resourceful. He will help you recover compensation while you help yourself or loved one recover from the accident.
Geoff Aylward, Q.C. will provide effective advice and representation in seeking benefit payment or compensation. Contact traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury lawyer Geoff Aylward today either online or at 709-726-7260.