The number of deer-related accidents spikes each fall. Deer can be skittish. They often move without warning. The only thing you can control is your own reaction to seeing a deer in your path. That won't always be enough.
Deer accidents are frustrating, because they often occur due to no fault of the driver. And it’s not as though the deer has an insurance company you can deal with. It's worth taking the time to learn the answers to some common questions about deer accidents and car insurance if you drive through wooded or rural areas.
- Hitting a deer isn't the driver's fault, but you might be on the hook to pay for the damage, depending on your coverage.
- Always try to avoid the accident, if possible, although you don't want to swerve, because you could put yourself and your vehicle even more at risk.
- Deer accidents are covered under the comprehensive coverage of your policy, but making a claim could still raise your rates.
- You don't have to make a police report, but it can be helpful when you make your claim.
First, Try to Avoid the Accident
You should try to avoid the accident, if at all possible, but not by swerving. You're at a much greater risk of hitting other traffic, a tree, a light post, a mailbox, or a ditch when you swerve.
The damage from hitting a deer could be much less than hitting another car or one of these other objects. Simply take your foot off the gas. Brake as much as you safely can. 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 comprehensive coverage. That's another reason why swerving to miss a deer can lead to severe 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 often cover animal mishaps.
A tow may be needed after a deer accident. It will be covered as part of the claim if you have comprehensive coverage. Your tow will also be covered if you don't have comprehensive coverage but you have roadside assistance.
You will be on your own to pay for both the damage to your auto and the tow if you don't have either comprehensive coverage or roadside assistance.
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. Your deductible should apply to a deer/auto accident if you have one listed on your coverage. Take a look at your declarations page, or call your agent to check.
You can compare the costs of deductible limits. Choosing a higher deductible doesn't always save you a whole lot of money. A low deductible on comprehensive is often the best option.
It's likely that you'll have 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 will apply to all of these types of losses.
Make sure you can afford your car policy and your deductible. It can make your policy too expensive if you choose too low of a deductible. You'll have to pay a higher cost to repair your vehicle before the insurance will kick in if you choose a deductible that's too high.
How It Affects Your Rates
There's is no exact answer to the question of how your rates will be affected by hitting a deer. Insurers have varying rules on comprehensive claims. These claims do not affect your rate in many cases, but check with your carrier to find out for sure.
Some carriers will apply a surcharge to your policy if you've hit more than one deer in a certain period of time, while others apply a small surcharge for any deer/car claim.
Filing a Police Report
Police reports are handy with any insurance claim. They're often not needed for a deer claim to be paid out, but it's a good idea to get one anyway, especially if you've hit more than one deer.
Documentation makes the claim process more cut-and-dried. It's worth taking the time if you're able to get a report filed with the police.
The Bottom Line
Deer accidents are common in many areas of the U.S. Knowing how to react when you see a deer can help limit your injuries and insurance bills.
Know what your policy covers before you file a claim. Make sure you understand your deductibles. Know when they apply. Speak with your agent if you have any questions about your coverage.