Who’s liable when livestock straying onto a road cause an accident?

Who’s liable when livestock straying onto a road cause an accident?

Wandering livestock is a potentially serious issue if not effectively managed, especially in rural areas

Straying livestock is an occasional issue for farmers. However, it also poses an accident risk to road users, especially at night and in low visibility. The consequences are potentially life-changing for both the road user and the livestock owner.

What happens if a person is injured due to my livestock straying onto a road?  

A person who suffers an injury due to livestock straying onto a road may be entitled to compensation from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), including compensation for:

  • lost income 
  • medical expenses, and
  • pain and suffering.

As the livestock owner, you may also be liable to pay compensation to the injured person due to negligence. This is because you have a legal responsibility to ensure your animals don’t stray from your property and cause damage to others, especially if your property adjoins public roads or streets.  

Therefore, it’s critical to take reasonable care to prevent your livestock from straying.  

What is “reasonable care”?

What is “reasonable care” will depend on the circumstances. For example, it is often reasonable to expect a livestock owner to regularly check and maintain their fences.  If your animals escape because your fences are damaged or in disrepair and you haven’t regularly checked or maintained them, then it is likely you have not taken reasonable care to prevent your livestock from straying. 

On the other hand, if a tree unexpectedly falls on and damages a fence and your livestock escape soon after, then it is likely that it was not reasonable for you to have taken action to prevent their straying.  You could not have reasonably expected that the tree would fall and damage the fence.

These examples show that the circumstances of negligence can be complicated, and every situation will be different. In some cases, you may even be negligent if your animals stray because you inadvertently leave a gate open.

How do I prevent my livestock from straying onto a road?

There are several things you can do to prevent your livestock straying onto a road, including:

  • inspect your fences regularly,
  • maintain your fences to ensure they’re in a good state of repair, and  
  • carry out any necessary repairs as soon as possible. 

The circumstances are a little different if you own the livestock but not the land on which they graze, such as leasing the land or agisting your animals. In these situations, you should review your agreement with the landowner, as the agreement may determine who is responsible for maintaining the fences. It may be that the landowner, and not the livestock owner, is responsible for preventing livestock from straying.

You should also review your insurance to make sure your public liability coverage includes damage caused by straying stock.

What are the penalties for accidents caused by stray livestock?

Local council officers who find stray livestock on roads may take action to ensure the animals do not stray again.  Officers may:

  • prosecute
  • issue fines of up to $9,600 (as of March 2024).

What should I do if my livestock causes an accident? 

If your livestock cause an accident, seek legal advice as soon as possible. Several of our personal injury lawyers also have significant experience in rural legal issues.  

Contact us for more information about accidents caused by livestock straying onto a road.  


This article was written by Joseph Anker


DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can receive from marshalls+dent+wilmoth and other relevant experts.