According to recent statistics, animals are involved in approximately 9,900 accidents per year in British Columbia. This involves all types of small animals like cats and dogs but also larger animals like deer and moose. For the motorcyclist, all animals on the roadway can present a danger. Smaller animals appear more often in residential areas where posted speeds are lower and can hit a wheel or the front end knocking a bike down. Larger animals however, can appear without notice when travelling on highways where trees or green spaces surround the road and strike a rider with tremendous force. They can knock the bike and rider to the ground or strike the rider pulling them from the bike. At any time, these large animals can cause devastating injury if they come in contact with a motorcycle. Each year, we get calls from riders injured after striking large animals on the highway and we are helpless to offer much assistance.
In British Columbia as well as many other jurisdictions, a collision will be deemed an, ‘inevitable accident’ or an act of nature, where striking an animal causes an accident leading to injury. The Courts have considered many different facts over time with the same result. In McIntosh v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, 2003 BCSC 775 (CanLII), 2003 BCSC 775 the Court held, “[where the] defendant was driving on a highway and encountered a wolf on the road; as she took measures to avoid hitting the animal, she became aware that there was black ice on the road. She subsequently lost control of her automobile. … the facts of the case established an explanation for the accident which was as consistent with negligence as it was with no negligence. Accordingly, the defence of inevitable accident succeed[s].”
As summer is now upon us and motorcyclists are travelling the highways for holidays and adventure, we remind everyone to watch for deer, moose, elk and other animals on the road. Striking an animal will likely mean you do not have a cause of action even if you sustain serious injury. In British Columbia, the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulations provide certain medical and income assistance benefits to injured people regardless of fault. (Please click here for more information.) These benefits however, would not provide for pain and suffering, loss of wages past and future, out of pocket expenses and future care.