Does Car Insurance Cover Hitting a Deer?

Deer on Crosswalk
••• Chris Tobin / Getty Images

The number of deer-related accidents spikes every fall. Deer can be skittish and often move unexpectedly. The only thing you can control is your own reaction to seeing a deer in your path, and sometimes that won't be enough.

Deer accidents are frustrating because they often occur due to no fault of the driver, and it’s not like the deer has an insurance company you can negotiate with. If you drive through wooded or rural areas, it's worth taking the time to prepare yourself by learning the answers to common questions about deer accidents and car insurance.

First, Try to Avoid the Accident 

You should try to avoid the accident if possible—but not by swerving. Once you swerve, you are at a much greater risk of hitting oncoming traffic, a tree, a light post, a mailbox, or a ditch.

The damage from hitting a deer could be minimal in comparison to hitting another vehicle or one of these other objects. Simply take your foot off the gas, brake as much as you safely can, and keep a straight course.

And of course, always wear your seatbelt.

Is Hitting a Deer Covered by Comprehensive or Collision Insurance?

Deer accidents are covered under the comprehensive coverage of your insurance policy. That's another reason that swerving to miss a deer can lead to significant consequences: Hitting an inanimate object with your vehicle is a collision, and collision coverage often comes with higher deductibles and premiums than comprehensive policies, which usually cover animal accidents.

Sometimes after a deer accident, a tow may be required. If you have comprehensive coverage, the tow will automatically be covered as part of the claim. If you do not have comprehensive coverage but have roadside assistance, your tow will also be covered.

Note

If you don't have either comprehensive coverage or roadside assistance, you will be on your own to pay for both the damage to your vehicle and the tow.

Your Deductible

Comprehensive coverage is often purchased with a deductible. Some companies do offer a zero-deductible option, so it depends on how you set up your policy. If you have a deductible listed on your comprehensive coverage, it should apply to a deer-auto accident. Take a look at your declarations page or call your agent to verify your deductible.

You can compare the costs of different deductible limits. Choosing a higher deductible on comprehensive coverage typically doesn't save you a whole lot of money. Often, a low deductible on comprehensive is the best option.

It's likely that you'll eventually need to file a claim because this type of insurance covers so many perils: hitting an animal, fire, theft, vandalism, tree fall, hail, flood, and other weather-related losses. The deductible you select for comprehensive coverage will apply to all of these types of losses.

Important

Make sure you can afford your car insurance policy and your deductible. If you choose too low of a deductible, it can make your policy too expensive. If you choose too high of a deductible, you'll have to pay a high cost to repair your vehicle before the insurance will kick in.

How a Deer Accident Affects Your Insurance Rates

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question of how your rates will be affected by hitting a deer. Insurance companies have varying rules on comprehensive claims. Many times, comprehensive claims do not affect your insurance rate, but you'll need to check with your carrier to know for sure.

Some insurance carriers will apply a surcharge to your policy if you have hit more than one deer in a certain period of time, while others apply a small surcharge for any deer-car insurance claim.

Filing a Police Report 

Police reports are handy with any insurance claim. They are usually not required for a deer claim to be paid out, but it's a good idea to get a police report—especially if you have hit multiple deer recently.

Documentation makes the claim process cut and dry. If you are able to get a report filed with the police department, it's worth taking the time.

The Bottom Line

Deer accidents are frequent in many areas of the U.S. Knowing how to react when you see a deer can help minimize your injuries and insurance bills.

Know what your policy covers before you need to file a claim, and make sure you understand your deductibles and when they apply. Speak with your agent or customer service representative if you have any questions about your coverage.