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Hitting an animal while driving can be a terrifying event. No one wants to hurt or kill another living thing, but sometimes circumstances can’t prevent it. Dogs and cats sometimes run out into the road and you don’t have time to stop. People often panic in this situation and don’t know what to do. It’s important to know how to respond after hitting a dog or cat with your car in case this unfortunate event ever happens to you. If you are ever in a situation in which you feel you are about to hit a dog or cat while driving, remember to use your brakes if you can but don’t swerve. Swerving can cause you to lose control of your car, which can lead to a more damaging and serious accident.
While nothing can take away the trauma of the situation, there are steps you can take to make it less confusing. Here are the steps to take immediately after hitting an animal with your car.
Stay calm and pull over
When you hit a dog or cat with your car, the first reaction is to panic. This reaction can lead to further damage and even another accident if you don’t get your emotions under control.
Though it may be hard, you need to stay calm. Take a few deep breathes as you put on your hazard lights and pull the car off the road. Once you gather yourself, survey the situation. If there are any passengers, make sure they are okay. Do not exit your car until you are emotionally ready to do so.
See if the animal is injured
Carefully approach the dog or cat that has been hit (once you determine it is okay to step into the roadway). Use caution as an injured animal can be very dangerous as they tend to lash out as a way of protecting itself.
Do not attempt to move it off the road unless you must and only if it is safe to do so. As much as you don’t want to see an animal suffering, you should not endanger your own life or the ones of others around you in an attempt to save an injured dog or cat.
If you can’t move the animal, set out flares if you have any to warn approaching vehicles.
Contact the authorities and owner
It’s imperative you call the police or highway patrol as soon as possible. There are several reasons this is important. You want the animal to receive care as soon as possible if needed. You also want to eliminate any hazards to other vehicles.
If the dog or cat has identification tags, see if you can contact the owner. Keep in mind, many states require you to contact the authorities within a specific time after hitting an animal. In addition, it helps to have them assess the scene so you have the information you need if filing an insurance claim.
Take photos of the scene and your car
If you have the capability, before leaving the scene take photos of the accident site and your car with a camera or phone. If there is damage, you may want to report to your insurance. It will help to have visual evidence of the incident.
Events like these can be very traumatic and stressful. Being prepared can help you keep the incident under control. Remember to stay calm, pull off the road, and use hazard lights and flares to warn other drivers. Assess the condition of the animal, call the authorities right away, and contact the dog or cat’s owner if you can. While the last thing you probably want to worry about is an insurance claim, try and take photos of the scene and your car in case you need them.