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NJ Distracted Driving Facts, Part 2: Wildlife On The Road

By Andrew R. Bronsnick

We’ve discussed the dangers of distracted driving in New Jersey. And to compound that risk is the newly released information that collisions with deer and other wildlife (like elk, moose or caribou) continue to be high on a national level. The Fall, especially October through December, is a high-risk time for collisions due to deer mating season.

Two major insurance companies recently released noteworthy data about collisions with wildlife.

The Farmers Insurance Seasonal Smarts Digest: Fall 2018 edition notes that collisions with animals are the top seasonal hazard for drivers to be aware of between the months of September and November.

Deer In The Headlines

Based on data obtained from claims filed with Farmers Insurance in the third quarters of 2013 through 2017, New Jersey was the state with the 10th-most animal collisions.

The news from State Farm isn’t much better. That company classifies New Jersey as a medium-risk state and their data suggests a driver has a 1-in-232 chance of hitting a deer in New Jersey.  What’s more, State Farm reports that the national per claim average rose for the second year in a row to $4,341 from $4,179 during 2016-17.

This puts drivers in a tough spot because you can’t exchange insurance information or bring a lawsuit against a wild animal (although lawsuits have been brought against people who act like wild animals).

Establishing Liability

Holding a town or county liable for damages is extremely difficult. If you can establish that a local town, village or county did not adequately warn drivers of the risk of wildlife crossing then you may be able to file a claim. If you happen to sustain auto damage or an injury due to deer crossing, be sure to take video or photo of the incident (or its aftermath) and try to document the lack of warning.

Your legal recourse may be through an insurance claim, but documentation is always a wise decision and course of action.

Tips for Avoiding Injury

In addition to pedestrian safety tips and distracted driving, some tips for avoiding animal crashes include:
  • If you see one deer, be prepared for more deer to cross the road.
  • Brake if you can, but avoid swerving. This can result in a more severe crash.
  • Avoid distractions. Devices or eating might cause you to miss seeing an animal.
  • Do not rely on products such as deer whistles. They are not proven effective.
  • Use your high beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic.
  • Time of day is critical. Deer are generally more active during dawn and dusk hours, so pay attention to your surroundings and stay alert.
  • Stay away from the animal. A frightened, wounded deer could cause harm with its powerful legs and sharp hooves.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of wildlife injury in New Jersey, you need an experienced lawyer to communicate with the insurance companies, investigate the cause of the incident, obtain videos and cell phone records, identify witnesses, prove who was at fault and properly evaluate and present your injuries to ensure you receive maximum compensation.


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