Who is responsible for damages to my vehicle when hitting an animal on South African Roads?

02 May 2024 ,  Crystelle Steyn 150

Encountering an animal on the road while driving can be a frightening experience, not only for the safety risks involved but also for the potential damage it can cause to your vehicle. In South Africa, where wildlife and domestic animals may roam freely in certain areas, understanding who bears responsibility for vehicle damage in such situations is essential.

In South Africa, the responsibility for vehicle damage resulting from a collision with an animal on the road is typically governed by common law principles and relevant statutory provisions. The law generally recognizes that the driver has a duty to exercise reasonable care and caution while operating a vehicle, including taking measures to avoid collisions with animals whenever possible.

Here are some key considerations determining liability for damages resulting from a collision with an animal:

Negligence: If the driver's actions or inactions contributed to the collision, such as speeding or failing to maintain proper lookout, they may be held liable for the resulting damages. Negligence on the part of the driver could diminish any claims for compensation.

Contributory Negligence: In some cases, the liability for damages may be shared between the driver and other parties involved. For instance, if the road signage warning of wildlife crossings was inadequate or if the owner of the animal failed to secure their livestock properly, they may also bear responsibility for the damages.

Insurance Coverage: Comprehensive insurance policies in South Africa typically cover damage to the insured vehicle resulting from collisions with animals. However, the specific terms and conditions of the insurance policy, including any excess payments or exclusions, may affect the extent of coverage available to the driver

Animal Ownership: In cases involving domestic animals, such as livestock wandering onto the road, the owner of the animal may be held liable for damages caused by their negligence in controlling or confining the animal. This could involve claims for compensation for the cost of repairing the vehicle damage. It is important that after the collision to collect as much proof as possible such as photographs of the road, the animal and the damages to vehicle etc. as it can be very difficult to prove ownership of the animal to institute a claim.

Claiming damages to your vehicle caused by an animal can be very complex and it is advisable to seek legal advice before you attempt to shift the blame as you might also be the cause of the accident and responsible for your own damages.