Free range cattle arguably live the best life possible: they get unlimited access to a wide variety of grasses and shrubbery, they breathe fresh air and are free to roam the countryside, and they aren’t living on top of their own grass byproduct. That’s not to say they don’t face any danger. Certainly, they are more exposed to the elements. And, depending on where they are ranging, they may face dangerous wolves or coyotes.

There aren’t many free range areas in the Tri-Cities area anymore, or even in all of Washington, but you should know to be extra cautious when you drive in a free range area because if you hit an animal, you very well may be liable for the damages. And if you are driving through Angus territory, you won’t be happy if a 2,000-pound bull lands on your windshield.

Fortunately, free range areas tend to be very obvious. Not only will you see signage, but noisy cattle guards will warn you to be on the lookout. And if you are driving through a free range area in the spring, you will see plenty of calves that will be more than happy to stop for a picture.

Unfortunately, we occasionally represent clients who have been injured after colliding into animals that have escaped from their fenced fields or pens. Horses, donkeys, and cattle are all big enough to cause serious damage, and if you aren’t expecting to see them in the road, it can be hard to avoid colliding with them. In most cases, the homeowners insurance of the animal owner will cover the damages resulting from escaped livestock, as long as you can identify the owner. Otherwise, you may have to make a claim under your own “full coverage” insurance policy for the property damage as well as any bodily injury you may have suffered.

Whether or not free range (or unrestricted areas) exist in your county depends on whether the county commissioners allow it. Currently, there are no free range areas in either Benton or Franklin counties. However, certain parts of the state do still have more open grazing. So, the next time you are driving out of the Tri-Cities to Chelan, or the next time you are out of state, pay attention to those cattle guards and drive safely! That way you can avoid having to call a personal injury attorney to explore your options.


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