You’re driving down a forested road and BAM! — a deer runs in front of you. With no time to react, you crash into it and damage your car. What happens next? If your auto insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage, you’re in luck. It should cover vehicle damage caused by hitting a deer.

According to State Farm, about 1.33 million auto-deer collisions occurred in the U.S. from 2017 to 2018, with an average cost per claim of $4,341. Large animals can cause extensive — and expensive — damage to vehicles, and comprehensive is the only type of car insurance coverage that covers damage caused by hitting a deer.

In this article, you will learn:

What type of car insurance covers hitting a deer?

Deer and other large animals can cause serious damage to your car. But if your auto insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage, they shouldn’t cause too much damage to your wallet.

Comprehensive coverage is what you need if you want your auto insurance to pay for vehicle damage caused by hitting an animal.

Comprehensive car insurance coverage pays for more than animal damage. It also covers damage caused by:

  • Falling objects like tree branches
  • Fire
  • Thunderstorms, hail and hurricanes
  • Theft
  • Vandalism

Let’s hope you have comprehensive coverage, because hitting a deer can cause a lot of damage to your car. The average cost of an animal-strike claim was $2,730 from 2004 to 2014, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Also, before your car insurance will cover animal damage, you’ll have to pay your policy’s deductible. Most deductibles range between $500 to $1,000 — far less than the average animal-collision claim amount of $2,730. If your damage or repair costs are close to or less than your deductible, however, you should probably pay for repairs out of pocket.

There is one exception to comprehensive coverage and deer-related accidents. If the deer (or other animal) doesn’t directly hit your vehicle and cause the damage, you’ll need a different type of car insurance. For example, if you swerve away from a bolting deer and hit a pole, comprehensive coverage won’t pay for the resulting damage. You need collision coverage in this situation.

Will my car insurance rates increase after I hit a deer?

Your car insurance rates shouldn’t increase after you hit a deer. This is because filing a comprehensive claim, which is what you would do after hitting a deer that damages your car, usually doesn’t cause auto insurance rates to go up.

Many insurance companies will raise your premium if you file a number of claims in a short amount of time. As such, if you’ve filed several claims recently, an auto-deer collision could result in you paying more for auto insurance.

How do I prove to my insurance company that I hit a deer if it survives and runs away?

You probably won’t have to worry about proving to your insurance company that a deer or other animal damaged your car. 

If you hit a deer and it runs away, the scene will still show that you hit a large animal. So, take photos of your car, particularly of fur or blood. Call the police and get contact information from any witnesses.

What should I do if I hit a deer?

Here are the steps you should take if you hit a deer or other large animal while driving, according to State Farm:

  1. Stay safe. If possible, pull to the side of the road. Also, turn on your hazard lights to make other drivers aware of the situation.
  2. Call the police. Let local authorities know if the deer or your car is blocking traffic. This is important because it can be a threat to other drivers. If the crash injured anyone, you will need to fill out an official police report. This report will help when you file your auto insurance claim.
  3. Document the scene. Take photos of the deer, your car and any damages or injuries. If there are witnesses to the collision, ask them for their account and contact information. Also ask them to stay at the scene, if possible, so they can leave a statement with the police.
  4. Stay away from the animal. Frightened and wounded animals can be dangerous. Don’t approach the deer, it could injure you with its forceful legs.
  5. Alert your insurance provider. Report the incident to your car insurance company as soon as possible.
  6. Make sure your car is safe to drive. Thoroughly examine your car before leaving. Make sure there are no leaks or other damage that might make driving unsafe. If you have any doubts about the safety of your vehicle, call a tow truck.

What should I do if I see a deer while driving?

If you see a deer on the road while driving, slow down, flash your lights and, if necessary, honk.

If the deer is not on the road, slow down and scan the area for more deer. Deer often travel in groups, so be prepared for another encounter.

Can I eat a deer I hit with my car?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to salvage certain types of roadkill for food. Many states require a permit for this, and there are several restrictions. As of 2017, 27 states allowed roadkill to be salvaged.

How can I avoid a deer accident?

Auto-deer collisions are often unavoidable because deer bolt into traffic with little warning. Still, there are steps you can take to avoid a startling run-in with Bambi:

  • Turn on your high beams when driving at dusk or dawn. Deer collisions are most likely to happen at dusk and dawn when deer are more active and visibility is low. Use your high beams during these times to spot deer before they’re on the road.
  • Stay alert. Be prepared for deer during your commute, especially during the times of day and seasons when deer are most common. Constantly scan the road ahead of you. 
  • Don’t swerve! Deaths from auto-deer collisions often occur when drivers swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a deer. It’s better to hit the deer than another driver or object.
  • Keep an eye out for more. Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one, drive slowly and be ready for others.

What are my chances of hitting a deer?

One out of 167 drivers will file a claim because of a deer, caribou, elk or moose collision, on average.

That said, the chances of hitting a deer vary based on where you live, the season and the time of day. Between October and December, for example, your chances of hitting a deer almost double compared to the rest of the year. Deer are pushed toward roads during these months because of mating and migration.

Also, auto-deer collisions are more likely at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active and visibility is low, so be extra vigilant during your work commute.

If you live in one of these states, you have a higher chance of hitting a deer:

Rank State 2018 odds
1 West Virginia 1 in 46
2 Montana 1 in 57
3 Pennsylvania 1 in 63
4 Wisconsin 1 in 72
5 Iowa 1 in 73
Sources: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm

Your chances of hitting a deer or other large animal are particularly high if you live in West Virginia, during the fall and winter months, and at dusk or dawn.

Don’t assume you’re in the clear if you live somewhere other than West Virginia. Residents of every state with a deer population should be on the lookout for these animals. For example, the Washington State Department of Transportation estimates cars kill 5,000 deer there yearly, based on the amount of roadkill its crews collect.

Also, deer aren’t all you have to worry about hitting while on the road. Per mile driven, Alaska has one of the highest moose-vehicle collision rates in the world. Small animals like porcupines, raccoons, dogs, cats and birds can damage your car, too.

No matter where you live, it’s important to have comprehensive coverage in case you catch a deer in your headlights. Compare auto insurance rates to find your best deal. Adding comprehensive coverage to your policy shouldn’t cost much, especially if you choose a reasonable deductible.

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