If you've hit a deer with your vehicle, at some point you're probably going to wonder whether the incident is covered under your car insurance policy. The short answer is: it depends. Let's discuss how to figure out when a deer-car accident might be covered, and what to keep in mind when making a claim for vehicle damage.
Reporting the Accident
Most car insurance companies don’t require you to file a police report after hitting a deer, but it is probably a good idea to call law enforcement anyway. If an officer responds to the scene (they might decline to do so), a report will likely be generated, and this report can serve to validate your claim. (Get more tips on what to do after a car accident.)
And of course, be sure you report the incident to your insurance company in a timely fashion, so that the carrier can't say you waited too long (they could use this argument to deny coverage for any car insurance claim you decide to make later).
Comprehensive Versus Collision Coverage
Your insurer will only pay on a claim if you have the right kind of car insurance coverage in place at the time of the underlying incident. Liability coverage (the minimum type of coverage required in most states) will not pay for damage resulting from a collision with a deer. If you want to make a claim for damage to your vehicle after you hit a deer, you will need comprehensive coverage. If you swerve to avoid a deer (but don't hit it) and your vehicle is damaged, you'll likely need collision coverage.
Comprehensive coverage is optional insurance coverage that will pay for repairing or replacing your car when the vehicle is damaged or destroyed (declared a "total loss") by things like:
- hitting a deer (or any animal) with your car
- "acts of God" (like wind or floods)
- falling objects, or
Whether you have a collision with a deer or whether you have a collision because of a deer are two different events that could fall under different coverage. Collisions with a deer will usually fall under your comprehensive coverage, while collisions because of a deer will probably fall under your collision coverage. For example, while a deer may have jumped into your car’s path, causing you to swerve and hit a fence, you will probably have to file your claim for damages under your collision coverage in that situation.
If you hit a deer and do not have comprehensive coverage, then you will have to pay for any vehicle damage out-of-pocket.
Both comprehensive and collision coverage options have deductibles and coverage limits. Your deductible is the amount you are responsible for paying before your insurance kicks in, while your limit is the maximum amount your insurance will cover.
If your car was damaged because you hit a deer, you will be responsible for paying for any damages up to your deductible. The amount of your deductible will help you decide whether it is better to pay the damages yourself or file a claim. For example, if your deductible is $1,000, and the total damage to your vehicle is $1,100, it is probably wiser to pay the extra $100 rather than filing a claim and risking an increase to your insurance rates.
Insurance Rate Considerations
Collisions with deer are not typically considered at-fault accidents, so your insurance rates will usually not go up as a result of filing a claim after hitting a deer.
Note, however, that some insurance companies will raise your rates in response to a certain number of claims filed in a specified amount of time. So before you file a claim after hitting a deer, consider your claim history and whether another claim might affect your premiums.
Avoiding Deer-Related Accidents
If you live in an area with deer, it's wise to educate yourself about risk factors surrounding deer-related accidents. First, the risk of hitting a deer is highest during the months of October, November and December, as these months correspond with deer mating and migration season. Deer are most active during dusk and dawn hours. And odds are, if you see one deer, there are others nearby.
On roads posted with deer-crossing signs, stay alert, particularly during the months and times of day with increased deer activity. Reduce your speed and proceed cautiously, so that you can stop in time to avoid a collision. Get more tips on Avoiding Deer-Car Collisions from the Insurance Information Institute.