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You Can’t Sue A Moose: Collisions with Wildlife on Highways

Living in Beautiful British Columbia means that we live amongst nature and usually that is a wonderful thing.  For drivers, however, an unfortunate but fairly regular encounter can involve the wild animals who dart or roam out into the road unexpectedly.  Everything from a squirrel to a moose may find its way into your direct path. Without sounding too harsh, we hope for your sake it is a squirrel.

Large Wildlife

While collisions with small wildlife are extremely common, they are unlikely to cause much damage to your vehicle or put you at much risk.  In contrast, it is no surprise that the larger wildlife species can seriously injure you if you collide with one.

Of the animals reported to have been killed on BC highways, approximately 80% of them involve deer.  The other 20% are mostly moose, elk, bears, and coyotes.

BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (“MoT”) report that between 1998 and 2007, there were 93,853 animals that were reported by drivers as killed on BC highways.  They estimate that this number only represents about 25% of the actual number of animals killed.

Animal collisions

Legal Implications

It is reported that there are 4 – 8 large animal collisions every hour in Canada.  These collisions result in upwards of 570 personal injuries each year.  Beyond the concern for the safety and well-being of road-users, there are unexpected legal implications involved in a wildlife collision.

Maybe you collide with the animal in the road, or maybe you swerve to miss it.  Either scenario could possibly involve a collision with another car, such as in Pitts Enterprises Ltd. v Farkes et al, 2004 BCSC 1493.  In that case, a collision with a moose left Farkes stunned.  He exited his vehicle, which was then crashed into by another vehicle travelling along the same route moments later.  The driver of the other vehicle sued Farkes for negligence.  This case is most referenced for the multitude of factors that the court considers when deciding cases such as this.

Court Considerations

As with any negligence case, the court will consider whether the actions of the defendant were reasonable in the circumstances.  In the case of a wildlife collision, the factors going to reasonableness are very unique.  For instance, was the driver driving in an area known for wildlife crossing?  Did the type of animal that they hit have reflective eyes and therefore could it have been seen ahead of time?  Was the animal standing in the lane or did they dart out suddenly? Ultimately, your claim that the animal ‘came out of no-where’ will only take you so far, and you cannot sue a moose.

Reducing Wildlife Collisions

British Columbia has taken more steps than anywhere else in the world to reduce the number of wildlife collisions.  In addition to the most comprehensive inventory of wildlife warning signs to denote wildlife-crossing zones, we have a wildlife exclusion system.  This wildlife exclusion system includes exclusion fencing, one-way gates, and wildlife overpasses and underpasses.

Additionally, we have ungulate guards, which are the bridge decks you may have seen that have beams spaced out just far enough that animals with hooves would be unable to cross it. According to the MoT, a “well-constructed and well-maintained wildlife exclusion system can reduce the potential for wildlife collisions by more than 90 per cent.”

Road Rules by Dominique McCrimmon and Cedric Hughes