09/17/2012 11:25 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2012

Kenneth Nolan, Motorcyclist, Sues FDOT After Hitting Florida Panther On Tamiami Trail

A Broward County man is claiming the Florida Department of Transportation is at fault for an accident in which he struck a panther while riding his motorcycle on the Tamiami Trail, as first reported by Courthouse News.

Kenneth Nolan and his wife Debra are suing FDOT and TransCore, a company that creates an animal alert system for motorists, for $15,000 each as a result of the March 31 collision.

According to Broward County court records, Nolan was riding close to the intersection of the Tamiami Trail and Turner River Road when he hit a panther crossing the road and was injured. Nolan and his lawyers say TransCore's Roadside Animal Detection System (RADS) did not alert him of an animal being in the area, which could have prevented the accident.

Thanks to a state grant, RADS was installed in January along 1.3 miles of the Tamiami Trail through the Big Cypress National Preserve to prevent accidents with panthers, according to Naples News. The paper reports TransCore failed to maintain the grass and weeds in the area this spring, blocking the sensors, and now sends out mowers twice a month for maintenance.

Though the panther ran off after the collision, according to Broward Palm Beach New Times, Nolan says he suffered "permanent disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical expenses, loss of earning, and loss of earnings capacity," while he wife has suffered losing the "support, services, and consortium of her husband."

Florida Panthers are in serious danger of extinction, with at the very most only 160 left in the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is charged with monitoring the population, has found 15 dead panthers this year so far -- putting 2012 on track to be the deadliest year yet for panthers.

“Florida panther deaths are most often the result of one of two things: collisions with vehicles or aggression from other panthers,” Kipp Frohlich, head of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section, said in a release earlier this year. “We can’t control panthers fighting when they are defending their territory; that is a part of nature. But we can do something about human-caused panther mortalities.”

Across the country, various alert systems and signs have been studied to find the best way to alert motorists of large animals crossing roads, to protect both humans and wildlife.

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