Car Accidents Caused by Animals

Camel, elephant and giraffe crossing city street
••• Thomas Jackson / Getty Images

One of the saddest things that regularly happen on quiet suburban roads is for a beloved family pet to dart out of the house, only to be struck by an unsuspecting incoming car. While it’s incredibly sad for the family that owns the pet when this happens, it can also be scary -- and costly -- for the driver. 

A lot of car accidents are caused by animals every year. Animals are unpredictable and when they dart out from tall weeds, a home, or a nearby forest, they can be impossible to avoid. Nearly all animal car accidents are handled the same by car insurance carriers. Knowing what damage to look for and how to handle an animal damage car insurance claim can save you both time and money.

  • All animal car accidents can potentially be covered by your car insurance if you have purchased comprehensive coverage. A couple of things are required to file a claim.
  • The damage cost needs to exceed your deductible. If you haven’t hit your annual deductible yet, you’ll be on the hook for the full cost of repairs. 

A police report is a good idea. Even though there’s no “suspect” for them to arrest or fine, letting the police department know about your accident proves to your insurance company that it happened. 

Tips for Specific Types of Animals

What makes handling hitting different types of animals vary is whether or not the animal has an owner. Pet owners are often held liable for an animal car accident. I try not to roll my eyes when calling in a deer claim for a client and the representative asks if the deer has an owner. I suppose anything is possible, but most deer are wild as far as I know. It is all a part of the process so the claim can be filed accurately. Not every animal is listed here, but you will get the idea.

I Hit a Deer

Deer are easily the most common animals hit on U.S. roadways. Deer are large enough to do severe damage to your car and sometimes can even cause injury to the driver and passengers. It all depends on the vehicle's speed and type of vehicle. Because deer are so prevalent, it is a good idea to get a police report. Police reports come in handy if you recently purchased your car insurance policy or if you recently filed another deer claim. A police report will verify information about the accident to your insurance claim adjuster.

Some insurance carriers do not require a police report, but if you are unsure check with your agent to get verification.

I Hit a Dog

Hitting a dog is a little different when compared to hitting other animals because dogs usually have owners. Owners are responsible for damages caused by their dog when they have not been appropriately restrained. Which means, if you hit someone's dog, the dog owner will be held liable for fixing your vehicle. The standard procedure is for the dog owner's homeowners policy to cover the damage. However, if there is no home insurance, the dog owner would be held personally responsible. Sometimes the owner would prefer to cover the damage out of their pocket verse filing a claim.

And other times small claims court is required, it all depends on how the owner responds to the situation. If the dog's owner is unable to be located, comprehensive coverage will cover the damage under your car insurance. 

I Hit a Bird

Often the only damage birds cause is to the windshield. Windshield coverage is also provided under comprehensive coverage. If you have a deductible, check around with local glass companies to see if they waive deductibles.

I Hit a Raccoon

A raccoon might seem small and harmless when it comes to a car accident, but it is still possible for them to do a lot of damage depending on what kind of car you drive. If you drive a compact car, be sure to get it checked out after coming in contact with a raccoon. Undercarriage damage is likely and can do severe damage to your vehicle if left unattended.

I Hit a Cow

Depending on your location, it is possible to come across a cow. As you can imagine the damage is likely to be substantial when hitting such a large animal. Similar to hitting a dog, the cow's owner would be responsible for damages because the cow should not be in the roadway. It is possible to file a comprehensive claim under your car insurance policy and then have your insurance company subrogate the claim. This means the insurance carrier would go after the animal's owner. Potentially your vehicle can get repaired sooner by filing the claim under your car insurance policy.

Your comprehensive coverage would cover an animal not listed here too. Comprehensive is the one coverage that protects your vehicle against physical damage to your car NOT involving a stationary object or vehicle. You will find comprehensive coverage to also be helpful if you encounter storm damage, flying debris, fire, or theft. Check your car insurance policy to verify your coverage. Your declaration page should state comprehensive or other than collision on your policy if you have purchased the coverage.