Maryland Injury Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Livestock Animals in the Road

Some drivers may think that the Baltimore Beltway and other Maryland highways are the most dangerous places to drive in the state. It’s true: Sharing the highway with speeding commuters, large commercial trucks, and drivers distracted by cell phones CAN be dangerous. But it’s Maryland’s rural, undivided highways and winding back roads where motor vehicle accidents are more likely to occur.

Now a new report confirms what anyone who drives through rural Maryland already knows: Maryland is among states at the highest risk for auto accidents with wildlife – specifically deer. When mating season is in full swing, Maryland’s deer are on the move, and that means moving in and across our back roads and sometimes even highways.

As experienced Baltimore County, Maryland car accident injury lawyers, we’ve seen firsthand the damage that can occur when a vehicle collides with a large animal. According to a report by State Farm, deer and car accidents rose by 8 percent between 2010 and 2011 due to the economy picking up, more cars on the road, and a booming deer population. In addition, suburban sprawl in Maryland means more homes built in or close to woodlands, where hunting is not allowed. This gives deer a chance to graze without human predators. So more people are literally seeing wildlife such as deer in their own backyards, and on our Maryland roadways.

A front end collision with a deer in Maryland can cause serious damage to a vehicle and injuries or death to driver and passengers. What are your chances of hitting a deer with your car or truck in Maryland? State Farm estimates that Maryland drivers have a 1 in 114 chance of being involved in a motor vehicle accident involving deer. That’s a sobering statistic (e.g., compared with a lower risk state such as California, where the risk is 1 in 1,076). In our experience as Maryland injury attorneys, we’ve seen cars totaled by deer strikes and motorists badly injured or killed when they’ve struck the animals in the road or swerved to avoid an animal that suddenly appeared in the headlights.

Maryland back roads have a number of other hazards that can lead to auto accidents, including farm vehicles in the road and livestock in the road. Be careful driving out there, particularly with deer mating season upon us. Go slow and expect the unexpected. Deer are mostly likely to be on the road between 6 and 9 p.m. If you see one, expect more in the area. State Farm says that November is the peak month for deer strikes nationally, with an estimated 1.23 million motor vehicles in the U.S. involved in deer strikes between July 2011 and June 2012.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Article:

Maryland Car Accidents with Livestock and Other Animals in the Road (Oct. 2010)


Deer vs. car crashes on the rise as wildlife hits the road
Yahoo! Autos Oct. 24, 2012
Oh, deer! How to avoid crashing into critters with car
The Virginian-Pilot Oct. 24, 2012

It’s a postcard-perfect picture: You’re driving down a back road in one of the rural Maryland counties, and you pass a farm with a red barn, corral, and horses lazily grazing in a field. It’s a relaxing sight that harkens back to simpler times.

However the spread of suburbia into rural Maryland counties — and the traffic that goes along with it — means increased risk of cars and trucks encountering large animals in the roadways. That picturesque Maryland scene can turn to horror in a heartbeat if a horse, cow, or other large animal gets loose and finds itself in the road — with an unsuspecting driver coming around the bend. Car accidents with large animals often end badly.

In an article in Stable Management magazine (see link below), an attorney who works with the equine industry goes into detail regarding various scenarios where horse and livestock owners may be held liable if an automobile accident with a large animal occurs. Laws vary from state to state, but in general…

  • Owners are responsible for keeping their horses and livestock fenced in (except in states where “open range” laws apply — Maryland is not one of those states).
  • Horse and other livestock owners are required to keep their fences and gates in good repair.
  • Horse owners should know their animals’ behavior, e.g., a horse that’s known for getting away and is not properly contained may get its owner sued if a car and horse accident occurs.

Maryland Car Accidents with Farm Animals and Liability Laws
The author of the stable management article mentions “strict liability laws” that are present in a few states; Maryland IS one of those states. In Maryland, an animal owner can be sued and may be held strictly liable for injuries caused by his animal if the owner knew (or should have known) that the animal was likely to commit the particular act which caused harm. In other words, if you own a large animal and it gets loose, you may be held strictly liable if someone is hurt as a result.

Maryland car and animal accident attorneys are familiar with these state liability laws. It’s best to consult with an injury lawyer experienced in this area, if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance to have suffered injury or death due to an auto crash involving a horse or farm animal in the road in Maryland.


Loose Horse Liability
Stable Management June 2008

Maryland drivers encounter a lot of hazards out there on our highways and roads — drunk drivers, distracted drivers texting and chatting on cell phones, road construction and detours, traffic congestion, bad weather — the list goes on.

One Maryland driving obstacle we hear less about that causes serious car accidents is the problem of livestock and other animals in the roadways. This includes farming livestock such as cattle, sheep, and bison; game animals such as elk and deer that are raised on private property for hunting; and even large exotic animals that are kept legally or illegally by private individuals as “pets.”

Let’s consider the problem of Maryland auto accidents involving livestock.

A recent article in The New York Times shed light on the problem of car accidents and livestock animals in Arizona (see link below). That state is rethinking its open range laws as suburban sprawl extends into what was once pasture land where farm animals roamed freely. Now motorists are coming into contact with cows and bulls on their property and in the roads and streets — sometimes with tragic results. “People have been killed in collisions with large cows,” said AZ state rep Daniel Patterson, who wants to do away with the “antiquated” open range law.

Maryland has no such open range laws in rural areas that allow livestock to roam freely into the roads. Generally speaking, animal owners are held to the same standards of negligence as any citizen and must use reasonable care in handling their animals. In certain cases, strict liability also applies in Maryland.

If you are involved in a car accident with livestock in Maryland, it’s best to consult an experienced Maryland livestock and car accident lawyer — who knows the laws related to animal and property owner liability and negligence.

Arizona Rethinking Open Range Laws
The New York Times Oct. 12, 2010