Have you ever been driving down the road and spotted an animal that looked a little bit out of the ordinary? Very recently I was driving back to Iowa from a friend's house and on my way home I spotted a calve that looked a bit out of place. By out of place...I mean it was close to the side of the road and not behind the fence it was supposed to be behind.

It's not impossible to spot wild animals we'd normally classify as "farm animals" in the state of Iowa but you can usually tell the difference between a domestic one and a wild one pretty dang quickly. 99 times out of 100, you could assume it's a domestic farm animal and you'd be correct.

Sadly, domestic farm animals can and do get loose. It happens all of the time. What happens if you accidentally hit a farmer's loose livestock with your car in Iowa? Who's fault is it?

Unsplash - Lucia Macedo
Unsplash - Lucia Macedo

Stray Livestock

According to Legis Iowa, this isn't exactly a black-and-white matter. There can be some grey areas in certain circumstances. Depending on the size of the animal and how fast you are driving, you'll sadly kill or wound the animal, cause damage to your vehicle, or both. Who's at fault?

Iowa Code 169C.4 Liability has a variety of stipulations involving another party's land being destroyed but at the bottom, you'll find section 3, which says

The landowner is not liable for livestock that strays from the landowner’s land. An aggrieved party is not liable for livestock that strays from the control of the aggrieved party.

Now, here's where there is a bit of a grey area. If it can be proven that a farmer was negligent with their animals, it is possible that this could result in the farmer being liable as opposed to the driver. If the driver can prove that a farmer knew that his livestock could easily escape towards a road and get hit, it's possible the farmer could be held liable.

Basically...good luck trying to prove that. If you hit a cow, it's unlikely that it snuck up on you, and generally the driver of the car will be liable for injuries they suffer, as well as the damages to their car. Depending on the driver's insurance, your car might be covered.

To be fair, it all kind of depends and you could argue this both ways. Not every scenario is the same, not everyone's car insurance is the same and if you do find yourself in a situation where you've hit livestock, it can and has gone both ways. As I said, this can be a very complex situation with a lot of gray areas.

Stay safe on the roadways Iowa!

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