I was 14 or 15 at the time and sitting in the back seat of my dad’s 1972 Pontiac Grand Am. My two younger sisters were on the back seat with me while my youngest sister sat on my mom’s lap in the front passenger seat. No one had a car seat back then and most of us rode in our cars without buckling our seat belts.
We were on our way to Florida to meet up with friends of our family for the weekend. Dad was driving about 60 miles per hour on a stretch of divided, four lane highway. It was evening and the sky had turned a deep indigo with a splash of orange here and there that the sky has before the sun dips under the horizon. Dad switched the lights on and I was fidgeting a little and ready to be out of the car .
The horse had been eating grass in the median of the highway. For some strange reason, he looked up, saw our lights and started trotting toward our car. He was dappled and blended into the dusky light until he was right in front of us. My mom screamed, dad slammed on the brakes and tried to steer onto the shoulder around the horse but it was too late. The horse ran straight into us, the car shuddered but kept going until we came to a controlled stop on the shoulder. It was dark now and we all sat in the car quietly waiting for dad to do something.
There are some things you never forget. Even now, I can close my eyes and see everything unfold: the color of the horse in the reflection of our headlights, the feel of a shudder through the car and how quiet we were as we waited for dad’s response. He cursed, got out of the car and trudged back to the horse to see if it was alive. It wasn’t. It had flipped over the car and landed in a ditch adjacent to the highway. It died from the impact which dad announced when he returned to the car.
We were fortunate the horse went over the car. That night would have had a far more serious impact on me and my family had the horse come through the windshield. We got off with some minor car damage and a fender that needed to be pried off one of our front tires. We were able to join our friends with quite a story to tell.
What would you do? Sometimes the answers aren’t so clear cut: an animal jumps in front of your car and you have to make a split second decision – hit the animal or drive off the road.
I quoted the insurance of a couple last week. They had a similar situation where an animal ran onto the road in front of them. Instead of hitting the animal, they swerved and drove off the road. The animal was spared but in driving off the road they’d damaged the car. The amount of their claim was less than $4,000.
There’s an interesting insurance perspective here. These two accidents would be classified differently.
- My dad’s accident was classified as a not-at-fault or comprehensive accident because he’d struck an animal
- The couple’s accident was classified as an at-fault accident because they drove the car off road
Both claims are factored into what I quote a new prospective client, but the at-fault accident weighs heavier for most insurance companies than a not-at-fault accident. I’m not advocating drivers hit an animal that runs in front of them. Several things can happen when that occurs:
- There could be damage to the car
- The animal could be maimed or killed
- There may be an emotional blow suffered as a result of hitting an animal
- Depending on the size and height of the animal, it could come through the windshield and hurt the driver and other occupants
I’m also not advocating the driver swerve off the road.
- There could be damage to the car
- You could hit a stationary object such as a tree or building
- You could lose control and roll the car
- You and the passengers could be injured or worse
The primary concern should be the safety of everyone in the car, followed by others on the road and then the animal. Everyone’s safety is far more important than how the outcome is classified by most insurance companies, or what may happen when the policy renews. A car can be more easily repaired or replaced than a friend or loved one.
What would you do? Share your comments, experiences and questions with me in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook and Google + pages. I’d love to hear from you!