Each year in the U. S., there' are approximately 1.5 million deer/vehicle collisions. This leads to about $4 billion in vehicle damage costs annually, with the average cost per claim averaging $3,305 during the last reporting period. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that this accounts for about 200 human fatalities per year.
Most car-deer accidents occur between the months of October and December, which also coincides with the deer's mating season. More accidents typically occur during the night, or anytime between dusk and dawn since deer are nocturnal animals and spend most of their time foraging at night.
If I Hit a Deer, Am I Covered?
The "deer caught in the headlights" analogy stems from the fact that, when temporarily blinded by oncoming motorists, many deer are likely to freeze in place. Since deer are social creatures and usually travel in groups, seeing one on or near the roadway usually means there are others nearby.
If you hit a deer, the claim will usually be paid by the comprehensive coverage of your car insurance policy. Even though the accident with the deer wasn’t your fault, you still will have to pay your comprehensive deductible amount.
If, however, you swerve to avoid contact with the deer and end up running into another vehicle or object (such as a tree or guardrail), the collision portion of your policy will apply.
Swerving isn't a good idea. More injuries and fatalities are experienced from swerving and hitting a solid object than by just slowing and letting your car collide with the deer.
Do I need to file a police report?
In general, car insurance companies don't require you to fill out a police report to file a comprehensive claim for hitting a deer, but it’s advisable to contact authorities anyway.
Having a police report to back up your claim will help you be able file this claim under your comprehensive coverage. If the claims adjuster can't validate your claim that you hit a deer, the claim may end up under your collision coverage instead.
Even if your insurance provider doesn’t require a police report, your state may require a police or crash report for accidents where there is any injury, or property damage above a certain amount.
Will my car insurance premium increase?
Comprehensive claims, such as one for hitting a deer, don’t typically increase your car insurance rates. However, with many companies, if you file a certain number of claims within a specified period your rates can go up. So, if you already have had a few auto insurance claims in the past few years with your car insurance company, then this one could push your premiums higher due to the total amount of claims you’ve made.
Tactics to Avoid a Deer vs. Car Confrontation
Knowledge is power and knowing what to do to avoid hitting a deer can help keep both you and the wildlife safe from harm. Here are some important tips:
- Follow the signs – if you see a deer-crossing sign placed on the side of the road understand that it's there for a reason. These are placed in areas where there are known deer habitat or waterways these animals frequent. Be extra vigilant, slow down (recommended no more than 55 MPH) and drive defensively, expecting a possible encounter.
- Scan your surroundings – keep your eyes on the road, but scan left and right looking for the telltale signs of a deer's eyes, which shine bright green when reflecting your car's headlights. Use your high beams, if possible, and involve your vehicle's passengers in looking for possible trouble. If you frequently drive in areas where deer may be present, consider upgrading your lights with a good set of additional driving lamps.
- Note the time of day – deer are most active around dusk and at sunrise, which are the exact times when seeing them is most difficult because of the lighting conditions. Realize this, slow down and keep your eyes alert for potential deer sightings.
- Maintain your vehicle – having well-maintained tires and brakes that will allow you to stop in the shortest distance possible can prevent some collisions or lessen the impact of others. If a deer jumps out in front of you and hitting him seems unavoidable, slow the car as much as possible and try to make the contact a glancing blow rather than a head-on collision. As mentioned earlier, don't suddenly swerve to try to avoid contact as this will typically result in a more dangerous situation.
When driving in deer territory, it's your responsibility to take extra care because they're not going to. Make sure your vehicle is properly protected with comprehensive coverage on a good insurance policy and drive defensively at all times.