From Iceland — City Not Liable For Man Injured After Avoiding Colliding With Rabbit

City Not Liable For Man Injured After Avoiding Colliding With Rabbit

Published October 14, 2022

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Ragna Ó. Guðmundsdóttir/Art Bicnick

Reykjavík District Court has found in favour of the City of Reykjavík in the case of a man demanding damages from the city following a cycling accident he suffered after trying to avoid hitting a rabbit, RÚV reports.

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The case goes back to 2016, when Hlöðver Bernharður Jökulsson collapsed a lung, broke a few ribs and badly injured his shoulder when, by his account, he collided with a rabbit in the Elliðaárdal area of Reykjavík. He then called upon city authorities to take action regarding the rabbits, which are not native to Iceland but are the descendants of pet rabbits released into the wild some years ago.

“What needs to happen for the city to stand up and do something about this?,” Hlöðver told reporters at the time. “I am quite sure that I am not the only one who has been thrown by one of these rabbits. I think the time has come to do something about this.”

Hallgerður Hauksdóttir, the chairperson of the Animal Protection Association of Iceland, subsequently told reporters that the cyclist alone bears responsibility for this accident, and should just have been more careful.

“Living things always have the right of way,” Hallgerður said at the time. “Cars, bikes and other vehicles are considered a part of the person controlling them – the driver needs to be careful. I will never buy it that a rabbit was in his way. The cyclist needs to watch out, especially when it is known that such animals are in the area. Just like on the national highway, we need to watch out for sheep in the road. It’s the same thing.”

In its ruling, the District Court concluded that while the city may have been aware of the rabbit problem for a long time, rabbits fall under the purview of being wild animals that enjoy legal protections. Furthermore, the court considered it unlikely that the city could have prevented the accident with the inclusion of mirrors or lighting.

Iceland’s current rabbit population descends, for the most part, from pet rabbits which were released in the Elliðaárdal area of Reykjavík in 2010. In 2011, rabbits bounded onto a Reykjavík highway, causing a three-car pile up. By 2012, rabbits were plaguing farms in south Iceland, as they burrowed into hay bales intended for animal feed, leaving waste inside them. In 2013, Reykjavík made the decision to look into what options were available to deal with the rabbit issue.

For now, feral rabbits continue to dominate Elliðaárdal, surviving due to milder winters and thriving without impedance the rest of the year. Those biking in the area are advised to watch their speed and keep their eyes peeled.

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