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Farm Animals on Public RoadsIf warning or Animal Crossing signs are posted and the driver failed to take precautions, then the driver is At Fault. All states require the operator of a Motor Vehicle to be in control of their vehicle at all times.

If no warning signs are posted, then you may be able to hold the animal's owner at fault or partially at fault, depending on your states regulations regarding farm animals and depending on how and why the animal was loose. You could only hold the owner at fault if you can determine that the accident was the result of the owners negligence or failure to exercisereasonable care and control to keep the animal secured.

If the Farmer was the victim of property damage resulting in the animals escape and this was unknown to him or by a reason beyond his control, such as an act of nature or vandalism, then he is not at fault and should not be held liable. This is much the same situation as if your car was stolen and the thief took your vehicle to rob a bank and hit 3 people in the getaway. We would not hold the owner of the stolen vehicle at fault for the robbery nor for the reckless driving of the bank robber.

This type of a loss could sometimes be determined to be mutual fault. Fault in this case again would hinge on "reasonable care and control", This applies to both the animal owner and the driver of the vehicle that hit the animal. You can't hold the owner of the animal liable simply because he is the owner.

As an Example, If a neighbors child runs out into the street and you hit the child, without an establishment of negligence, you can not hold the parent at fault for damages to your bumper, simply because they are the parent of the child.

Although it is a good Idea for Farmers and Ranchers to insure against this type of loss, There is no requirement of law that the property owner have any specific limits of coverage nor that he have any insurance coverage at all. It is the property owners choice to buy insurance or not. Their may sometimes be contractual obligations to carry property or liability insurance when a finance note is involved. It is also the property owners choice as to the limits and scope of any coverage he desires.

From a Texas General Agent.

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Responsibility of Hitting a Farm Animal on a Public Road

I'll agree with the crossing signes being posted & that the operator of the motor vehicle to be in control of their vehicle at all times... Also here in my area one of the rule sin farming is: that we Farmers are to keep our fences up & livestock in so that damages like this does not happen. I myself have always thought hat if a horse, coe or other gets out & causes damage to others property, it is we the Farmers fault. Maybe laws are different in other states. M.C.S.

Here are opinions from various Wiki s Contributors:

  • It probably depends on the state and the situation, but in most cases, I'd say it was the farmer's fault. If there were plenty of animal crossing signs, etc., then it would probably be the driver's fault.
  • If you believe this was the fault of the animals Owner, Make sure to take photos, speak with witnesses and make an accident report with your local authority. It is important to take pictures of the area of fence where you believe the cow or other animal escaped. Look at the ears of the animal that you hit to see if there are any tattoo's or branding marks, and also check for tattoos in the lip area. You may see ear tags punched and attached. These markings will help determine who owns the animal. DO NOT LEAVE A DEAD OR INJURED ANIMAL SITTING IN THE ROAD! It will disappear, sight unseen, and no one will accept ownership at that point. ...
  • If you live in Montana or another free range state than it is the drivers responsibility because cows have the right of way no matter what. It is the responsibility of the people without the cows to put up fences in order to keep the cows out. The farmer can let them go as he pleases. Sad but true.
  • When one is driving a vehicle one should always be careful and normally the fault is assigned to the motor vehicle driver- the farm animal should not have been there - but it does not have the ability to distinguish its limits and so its the motorist fault to be aware and stop the auto. The owner of the animal is also responsible for it but his negligence is lesser of the two.

Generally speaking, if the area is closed range, which a vast majority of the country is, it is the responsibility of the farmer to keep his animals. If it is open range, all bets are off, and the driver is on notice that farm animals could be 'ranging' anywhere, and the responsibility transfers to the driver, even to the point of having to pay for the injured or killed animal.

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Q: If a farm animal is hit on a public road who is responsible - the owner of the animal or the driver of the vehicle?
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