In Utah, auto-livestock collisions can and do occur on our roads and highways. While the State of Utah, cannot represent you or give you legal advice, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has provided the information below to help you understand some of the laws in Utah that may be applicable in the unfortunate event of an auto-livestock collision:
Liability and/or responsibilities when an accident occurs:
The Utah, Traffic Code, specifically, Utah Code § 41-6a-407 stated below, is the primary statute providing guidance when an accident occurs:
41-6a-407. Livestock on highway — Restrictions — Collision, action for damages.
(1) (a) A person who owns or is in possession or control of any livestock may not willfully or negligently permit any of the livestock to stray or remain unaccompanied on a highway, if both sides of the highway are separated from adjoining property by a fence, wall, hedge, sidewalk, curb, lawn, or building.
(b) Subsection (l)(a) does not apply to range stock drifting onto any highway moving to or from their accustomed ranges.
(2) (a) A person may not drive any livestock upon, over, or across any highway during the period from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise.
(b) Subsection (2)(a) does not apply if the person has a sufficient number of herders with warning lights on continual duty to open the road to permit the passage of vehicles.
(3) A violation of Subsection (1) or (2) is an infraction.
(4) In any civil action brought for damages caused by collision with any domestic animal or livestock on a highway, there is no presumption that the collision was due to negligence on behalf of the owner or the person in possession of the domestic animal or livestock.
It may be wise for you to consult qualified counsel to help you interpret the above statute, however you may want to initially consider some of the items discussed in the statute such as:
(1) What is the location of the accident? Are both sides of the highway are separated from adjoining property by a fence, wall, hedge, sidewalk, curb, lawn, or building? If so, it is likely that the location of the accident is in a “closed range” area. If not, it is likely that the location is in an “open range” area.
(2) What time of day/night did the accident occur and what were the conditions at the time of the accident? Did the accident happen because one animal was on the roadway, vice a herd being driven by one person or by a group of people? Each variable may alter who may be held responsible in an auto-livestock collision and while we cannot cover every scenario here, it is important you get as much information as possible about the accident, so that a proper determination(s) can be made given your unique circumstances.
It is important to notify and coordinate with your insurance company and; if necessary qualified council to obtain the best possible outcome if you are involved in an auto-livestock accident. There is no distinct definition of “open range” however, if the location does not fall within the statutory definition of “closed range” it is by default “open range”. As of June 2018, all counties in Utah have both open and closed range areas within each County.