Does Car Insurance Cover Hitting Deer or Other Animals?
Millions of Americans hit animals every year while driving, and it can cause serious damage to a car. Does insurance cover those damages?
You’re driving down a forested road and BAM – a deer runs in front of your car. With no time to react, you make contact. What happens next? If your car insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage, you’re in luck. It should cover damages to your car from hitting a deer.
According to State Farm, from 2017 to 2018 around 1.33 million auto-deer collisions occurred in the US, 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 coverage that covers damage to your car from hitting a deer.
One out of 167 drivers will file a claim in the US because of a collision with deer, elk, moose, or caribou. Your chances of involvement in a large animal collision vary by the season, time of day, and location.
Only Comprehensive Coverage Covers Damages from Hitting a Deer
Deer are large animals with sharp hooves and pointed antlers. They can do some serious damage to your car. But if comprehensive coverage is part of your auto insurance plan, they shouldn’t cause too much damage to your wallet.
Comprehensive coverage is what you’ll need for your auto insurance to help with repair costs. What else does comprehensive coverage pay for? It covers damages that don’t involve another vehicle, including:
- Falling objects like tree branches
- Hurricanes, hail, and thunderstorms
Let’s hope you have comprehensive coverage, because hitting a deer can cause substantial damage to your car. On average, the cost of an animal-strike claim from 2004 to 2014 was $2,730.
Also, in order for your insurance to cover your damages, you’ll first have to pay your deductible. Most deductibles range between $500 to $1,000, less than the average animal-collision claim amount of $2,730. If your damages 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 doesn’t directly hit your vehicle and cause the damage, you’ll need a different type of insurance. For example, if you swerve away from a bolting deer and hit a pole, comprehensive coverage doesn’t apply. You’ll need collision coverage in that situation because you didn’t hit the animal directly. Damage was caused by another source (the pole).
What to Do if You Hit a Deer
You hit a deer. Now what? The most important part of an auto-deer collision is the safety of yourself, your passengers, and other drivers. These are the steps you should take if you collide with a deer or other large animal, according to State Farm:
- Stay safe. If possible, pull to the side of the road to make sure you’re away from traffic. Also, turn on your hazard lights to make sure drivers are aware of the situation.
- 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. Also, if anyone is injured you will need to fill out an official police report. This report will also help when you file your insurance claim.
- Document the scene. Take photos of the deer, your car, and any damages or injuries. If there are other witnesses to the collision, ask them for their account and contact information. Ask them to stay if they can to leave a statement with the police.
- Stay clear from the animal. Frightened and wounded animals can be dangerous. Don’t approach the deer, it could injure you with its forceful legs.
- Alert your insurance company. Report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible, that way your claim can get filed quickly.
- Make sure your car is safe to drive. Thoroughly examine your car before leaving. Make sure there are no leaks or other damages that will impair your safety on the road. You may need to call a tow truck.
How to Avoid a Deer Accident
Auto-deer collisions are often unavoidable because deer bolt into traffic with little warning. But there are certain steps you can take to avoid a startling run-in with Bambi:
- Be on the lookout for more. Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one, drive slowly and be ready to see others.
- Auto-deer collisions are most likely to happen at dusk and dawn when deer are more active, and visibility is low. Use your high beams whenever possible to spot deer before they’re on the road. This is especially important because deer are common in unlit rural roads.
- Be aware of the times of day and seasons when deer are most common. Stay alert by constantly scanning the road. Be prepared for deer during your commute.
- Deaths from auto-deer collisions often occur when drivers swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a deer. Don’t swerve! It’s recommended that drivers hit the deer instead of another driver or object.
Deer Collision Hot Spots
When are you most likely to have an encounter with a deer on the road? As fall approaches, your chances of hitting a deer can almost double from the rest of the year. Your chances increase drastically from October through December. Deer are pushed toward roads during those months because of mating and migration season.
Be extra vigilant during your work commute. Auto-deer collisions are more likely at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active, and visibility is low.
If you live in one of these states, you have a higher chance of hitting a deer:
|1||West Virginia||1 in 46|
|Montana||1 in 57|
|3||Pennsylvania||1 in 63|
|4||Wisconsin||1 in 72|
|5||Iowa||1 in 73|
|Source: State Farm, iii.org|
West Virginia residents have a one in 46 chance of hitting a deer, the highest rate in the country. Even so, residents of every state with a deer population should be on the lookout. For example, the Washington State Department of Transportation estimates 5,000 deer killed by cars yearly, based on the amount of roadkill their crews collect. In some areas, deer aren’t all you have to worry about. Per mile driven, Alaska has one of the highest moose-vehicle collision rates in the world.
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 shouldn’t cost you too much, especially if you choose a reasonable deductible.
Deer aren’t the only animal that will cause damage to your car. According to the Humane Society of the United States, millions of wild animals are killed every week by cars in the US. Even small animals like porcupines, raccoons, birds, dogs, and cats can cause damage to your car.
Although it may be hard to imagine a chipmunk denting your grill, accidents can happen when drivers swerve to avoid killing an animal. If swerving is the cause of a collision, your claim would be for collision coverage, not comprehensive coverage.
The average cost of an animal-strike claim from 2004 to 2014 was $2,730. If you hit any type of animal and it damages your vehicle, the process is the same. Damages should be taken care of through comprehensive coverage. Make sure you properly document the collision with photos and witnesses and follow the proper safety steps.
Q: Will my rates increase after I hit a deer?
A: Filing a comprehensive claim, which you would in the case of hitting a deer, generally doesn’t increase your auto insurance rates. Many companies will raise your prices if you file a high number of rates in a short amount of time. So, if you’ve filed several claims recently, an auto-deer collision claim could increase your prices.
Q: I crashed after swerving to avoid hitting a deer. Does my insurance still cover me?
A: Comprehensive coverage has you covered if you hit the deer directly, but not an accident resulting from a deer running in front of your car. If you hit another car, a tree, a post, or other object, your collision coverage should help with those costs.
Q: Can I eat a deer I hit with my car?
A: 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, there were 27 states that allowed roadkill to be salvaged. Check here to see if your state is on the list.
Q: What are the chances of hitting a deer?
A: The chances of hitting a deer vary based on where you live, the season, and the time of day. However, on average, one out of 167 drivers will file a claim because of an elk, caribou, or moose collision. Your chances are particularly high if you live in West Virginia, during the fall and winter months, and at dusk and dawn.
Q: What do you do if you see a deer while driving?
A: If you see a deer in the road while driving, slow down, flash your lights, and honk if necessary. It’s always safer to hit the deer than to swerve into other cars. Many of the fatalities from auto-deer accidents come from the driver swerving into other cars to avoid the deer. If the deer is not in the road, slow down and scan the area for more deer. Deer often travel in groups, so be prepared for another encounter.
Q: How do you avoid hitting a deer?
A: Sometimes hitting a deer is unavoidable. They can burst into the road without any warning or time for drivers to react. The best thing to do is be extra vigilant in areas that have a larger population of deer, like forest roads. Deer are more active at dusk and dawn, so use your high beams to improve your visibility wherever possible.
Q: How do I prove to my insurance company that I hit a deer if it survives and runs away?
A: It can be relieving to know that you didn’t kill the deer, but stressful trying to prove your claim. If you hit a deer and it runs away, the scene will still show that you hit a large animal. Take photos of your car, particularly of fur and blood that shows it was a deer. Call the police and take down contact information from all witnesses. It shouldn’t be a problem to prove the damage came from a deer.
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