About 1.5 million deer, elk and moose are struck each year, causing more than $1 billion in insured losses and affecting about one in 169 drivers, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. From October through December, drivers’ chances of hitting a deer increase, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). In fact, the organization says more deer crashes occur in November because it’s the height of mating season. Additionally, be extra cautious if you’re driving at dusk or dawn, as the III says these are the highest-risk times for deer crashes. Of course, those are times when cars are normally on the road, too.
Hitting a deer can be costly: According to the III, the average cost of deer-crash insurance claims was $4,135 in 2015. To help protect your vehicle (and your wallet), talk to a local agent to make sure you have the proper car insurance coverage on your policy.
As many an unlucky motorist will attest, you don’t necessarily have to run into a deer to be involved in a deer-related crash. A lot of times, you may not hit the deer; the deer may hit you or leap onto your car. Startled drivers who have run-ins with deer are often equally surprised by how their auto insurance treats their claims.
Logic might suggest that such animal crashes would fall under the collision portion of your policy, which pays for damage to your vehicle if you hit (or are hit) by another vehicle or object. Instead, animal-related damage is typically treated as an “other than collision” claim under your comprehensive coverage, or “comp,” which covers so-called acts of God such as wind, hail and flood, as well as fire, vandalism and theft.
Comprehensive coverage is strongly recommended for all drivers, unless your car has very low value. Collision coverage (which generally is sold as a package with comprehensive) won’t pay for damage caused by hitting an animal. However, collision could apply if you swerve to miss an animal and hit something else instead, such as a fence.
Improve your safety with these tips:
- Be extra careful when driving in areas known to have many deer.
- Deer often move in groups, so if you see one animal, slow down and look for others.
- Use high beams at night unless there is oncoming traffic.
- Do not swerve if you see a deer. Doing so could send you off the road or into oncoming traffic.
If the worst happens
Sometimes an accident is inevitable no matter how careful you are. Deer can dash out from cover with no warning, giving you no chance to stop.
If you hit a deer:
- Move your vehicle off the road and turn on your hazard lights. Call the police. If possible, take pictures of the scene and any injuries to passengers or damage to the vehicle, for insurance purposes.
- If the animal runs away after the accident, get a picture of hair or blood on the car to show that a deer was involved. Use this evidence to have the accident processed under comprehensive coverage.
- Get contact information from any witnesses, especially if the animal runs off. If witnesses are able to wait, ask them to report what they saw to the police.
- Even if you think the damage is minimal, check to be sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Look for tire damage, broken lights, fluid leaks or loose parts. You may need to call a tow truck.
- Do not approach the deer, even if you think it’s dead. A wounded animal could injure you.
How to know you are protected.
All of us are at some risk for hitting deer because they can be found just about anywhere. The right insurance policy plus defensive driving skills can greatly reduce your chances of injury and uncompensated expense. To learn more about if you have the right insurance policy, check with your local agent or reach out to us- we’d be happy to help www.keslarinsurance.com or 603-273-0953.