Does car insurance cover damage from hitting a deer?

Hitting a deer can be a terrifying experience that will usually result in significant damage to your car and costly repairs. But does car insurance cover damage from hitting a deer? The good news is that damage from colliding with a deer usually IS covered by your car insurance. Read on for more information on the type of damage a deer can cause, the type of car insurance you need to be covered, and the process for filing an insurance claim.

How much damage does hitting a deer do to a car?

Car damage from hitting a deer can vary significantly depending on how fast you were driving and how large the deer was. On average, deer collision repairs can cost $6,500, with the most common damage occurring to the front of the car such as to the bumper, headlights, and windshield. In many cases, deer collisions can also total your car and cause severe personal injury to you and your passengers.

Deer can weigh over 100 pounds, and many collisions occur at night and at high rates of speed, so significant car damage is usually expected. Don’t underestimate the damage a deer collision can cause to your car!

What should you do after hitting a deer?

Immediately after you hit a deer, you should assess the damage to your car, make sure that you and your passengers are okay, and determine whether your car is in working order. You should then immediately turn on your hazard lights and, if safe to do so, move to the shoulder of the road. You will next usually want to dial 911 and, if your car is not drivable, call for a tow truck or roadside assistance.

While waiting for help to arrive, you should take pictures of the accident scene, your car, and the surrounding area. These pictures will be extremely useful when you file a claim with your insurance company. Be very careful not to touch or move the deer while taking photos – deer are very strong and even an injured deer can still hurt you.

Is it legal to hit a deer and drive off?

Whether you need to report an accident to authorities typically depends on state laws and how severe the collision with the deer was. Regardless of the requirements, however, you should always plan to report the incident to authorities. In less severe accidents, consider calling a non-emergency number to report the incident instead of 911.

When does car insurance cover damage from hitting a deer?

Generally, damage from hitting a deer will be covered by a “comprehensive” car insurance policy. Comprehensive car insurance is a broad policy that covers repairs if your car is damaged by incidents outside of your control, such as by hail, rodents, flooding, and fires. Counterintuitively, a “collision” car insurance policy typically does NOT cover damage from hitting a deer.

About 79% of drivers have some form of comprehensive coverage, so the chances are very good that you will be covered if you hit a deer. Furthermore, if your car is financed or leased, you are nearly certain to have comprehensive coverage because lenders almost always require it.

Does car insurance cover my injury from a deer collision?

A comprehensive car insurance policy only covers damage to your vehicle. To cover injuries to yourself or your passengers, you will need either “medical payments” or “personal injury protection” (“PIP”) coverage. However, limits for PIP coverage are typically around $10,000 – likely well below the cost of medical bills. If you receive a more serious injury, you will likely need to pursue coverage through your health insurance.

Should you make an insurance claim for damage caused by hitting a deer?

Due to the significant damage that deer collisions usually cause, it typically makes sense to file an insurance claim to repair your car. While it is impossible to know precisely how much an insurer will raise your rates due to a claim, one source found that making a comprehensive claim (like a claim for hitting a deer) has a very small impact on your insurance rates. And in some states such as California and Oklahoma, it is actually illegal for an insurance company to raise your rates due to this type of claim.

When does it NOT make sense to file an insurance claim after hitting a deer?

If the damage to your vehicle from a deer collision is less severe, visit a local body shop and have them estimate the cost of a repair before you make an insurance claim. When the cost of the repair is below your deductible, you will typically want to repair the damage yourself. Below we lay out an example of how payouts function with a deductible and why it won’t make sense to file a claim below the deductible.

deer collision coverage with comprehensive insurance diagram

When you make an insurance claim below your deductible, not only will you receive no reimbursement from your insurer, but your insurance rates might also go up. However, there is one exception to this rule – if you hit a deer because of the actions of another driver.

For example, if another driver caused you to swerve into the deer to avoid a collision. While an incident like this may still go on your insurance record, the impact on your rates will be much lower if the other driver is considered “at fault”.

How does the claim process work for damage resulting from a deer collision?

When your car is damaged severely after hitting a deer you should call your insurance company and file a claim. Every insurer’s claim process is different, but if you give your insurance company a call they will walk you through the steps to formally file a claim.

Typically after filing a claim, you will be assigned an insurance adjuster who will manage your case. This adjuster will want to review the photos you took of the accident scene. They will also work with a local repair shop to assess your vehicle, estimate the cost of the damage, and fund your repair.

Given the significant damage deer collisions cause, don’t be surprised if your insurance company declares that your car is totaled instead of repairing it. When your car is totaled, your insurance company will give you a check for the cash value of your car, which you can use to purchase a new vehicle.

How can you avoid deer collisions?

Deer are unpredictable, move quickly, and are active at night when it is more difficult to see. Unfortunately, collisions with deer are often unavoidable! However, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce the likelihood of hitting a deer:

  • If you see one deer, slow down: deer often travel together, so if you see one deer there are very likely to be more deer in the area
  • Exercise extra caution during deer season: deer are most active during deer season (typically, October through December). During these months, a deer collision is 3-4x more likely, so exercise extra vigilance to avoid a collision
  • Be very careful at night: deer are not only more active at night, but are also harder to see! In areas with a deer population, drive very carefully at night (or better yet, avoid driving when it is dark!)
  • Check your headlights: having headlights (specifically high beams) are key to seeing deer well in advance. When driving at night on rural roads, always use your high beams unless other drivers are oncoming
  • Make sure the rest of your car is in working order: when you see a deer, you will usually need to brake quickly to avoid a collision. Making sure your brakes and other aspects of your car are in good shape is key to avoid collisions
  • Pay attention to signage: while driving, keep an eye out and slow down when you see “deer crossing” signs. These signs are there to warn you of heightened deer collision risk – be sure to heed the warnings!

While these strategies certainly don’t eliminate the possibility of colliding with a deer, they can help reduce the likelihood of a serious collision.

Where are you most likely to collide with a deer?

According to a study from State Farm, 1 in every 115 drivers in the US will collide with an animal each year, with deer collisions being by far the most common cause of animal-vehicle incidents. State Farm also identified six heightened-risk states where drivers are much more likely to collide with a deer, than the rest of the US. Be sure to exercise extra caution when driving in these states – particularly at night and during deer season.

Most Likely States for Deer Collision

StateOdds of Collision
West Virginia1 in 35 drivers
Montana1 in 44 drivers
South Dakota1 in 51 drivers
Michigan1 in 51 drivers
Wisconsin1 in 54 drivers
Pennsylvania1 in 57 drivers
Source: State Farm data.
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