Cows in the road: what to do if you have an accident involving livestock
Harper Macleod has successfully pursued a case against a farm owner for injuries and damage sustained following a road traffic accident involving cows on a public road.
Our client was driving along a dark country road around 9:30pm. There had been adverse weather in the area. After emerging from a bend in the road, she was met by a number of cows which had escaped from a nearby field, with one black cow running towards her car. She immediately braked but heard a “number of thumps” as her car came to a stop. She left her car to find one cow lying on the ground. She was very distressed at this sight and called for a vet.
As a result of the incident, the pursuer sustained physical and psychological injuries as well as significant damage to her vehicle.
We argued that the owner of the livestock, a farmer, had failed to keep his livestock under proper control and failed to ensure that fences and gates were effective and properly maintained, so as to safeguard against any chance of escape.
Those arguments were accepted by the farmer’s representatives and a settlement sum of £7000 was achieved.
Pursuing a case for injury by livestock
One of the most important steps in pursuing such a case is to identify the owner of the livestock. This is not always an easy feat especially if there are numerous fields and farms in the area. If an animal is chipped, it should be easier to identify the owner.
Once the owner is identified, an intimation of claim can be made setting out your arguments and asking the farmer to identify their insurer. All farm owners should have insurance in place for public liability to protect them against any potential injury claims.
Farmers can be held strictly liable (depending on the animal) under the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 for injuries to persons. However, the animal has to be of the type that is expected to injure or damage and that injury/damage should be directly related to the animal’s attributes.
Given that, it is easier to pursue a claim under common law for injuries that arise as a result of livestock being loose on roads.
What if your injury has occurred on the farm itself?
Under the Occupier’s (Scotland) Act 1960, farmers have a duty to any visitors to their farm in relation to protecting them from risks associated with livestock. That duty is inherent whether the visitor is permitted to be there or not. A farmer must take reasonable steps to safeguard against the risk of livestock injuring visitors and liability will attach if the farmer knew or ought to have foreseen the risk of injury.
Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, the public now have a right to roam free in lands across Scotland. As such, farmers should be aware of their duties in terms of injuries and ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken to safeguard against risks associated with livestock.
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