Animals hit by cars are an unfortunate fact of life on the American roadway and this is particularly true if you live in a rural area. If your vehicle has struck a deer or dog the first concern is likely the well being of the critter (if it’s still alive). PETA has an excellent article on what to do in these situations .
The second thought that likely pops into your head is: will my insurance company cover the damage to my vehicle? We’ve structured the following as an FAQ, specifically answered are….
You Hit an Animal With Your Car, Are You Covered?
Deer are one of the most commonly struck creatures, even smaller ones can cause considerable damage to a vehicle. If you hit an animal you may be thinking that your collision policy will kick in and provide coverage for the damage. However, if you read the fine print of many insurance policies you will find that contact with a deer, dog, bird, etc is specifically listed as a loss covered by “other than collision” — this typically means a comprehensive policy.
For anyone in need of a refresher:
- Collision – Collision coverage pays for damage to your car as the result of making contact with another car, object or as a result of flipping over.
- Comprehensive – Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle caused by something other than what is covered in the collision policy. This could be things like fire, theft, flood, falling objects, natural disaster, vandalism or — you guessed — contact with animals.
To be assured coverage for this type of incident you should have comprehensive coverage, collision or liability alone are unlikely to cut it. In this case, you will have the coverage of your comprehensive policy less your deductible amount.
You Swerved to Avoid Hitting an Animal, Are You Covered?
Another common scenario that finds its way to the claims department is a driver who damages their vehicle while swerving to avoid hitting a squirrel or a dog. In this situation, it’s easy to crash into a guardrail, tree or ding the curb. In these cases, the coverage moves back to your collision policy.
Although the animal may have triggered the sequence of events that led to the damage the contact was made with an object. The decision regarding which coverage may apply rests solely on whether or not your vehicle made contact with the deer.
Do You Need to File a Police Report?
Another common question that is related to the insurance aspects of an animal run-in is: am I required to file a police report.
The simple answer is no.
Insurance companies do not require that you call the police to validate your claim. However, having a police report and photos is likely going to make your claim stronger and potentially make the process more smooth (read, quicker).
It is generally advisable to make a police report for this reason and in addition if an animal is wounded but not dead the police can handle things to clear the roadway and avoid any further suffering it must endure.
Will Your Insurance Rates Go Up?
When any type of an insurance-related incident occurs people always want to know, how will it affect my premiums?
Insurance carriers typically do not view an animal run-in as an at-fault accident. So a claim against your comprehensive policy for striking a deer will likely do nothing to your rates. However, each individual carrier is different — if you’ve made a number of claims in a short period of time, then claiming for animal-related damage can have financial consequences.
The odds of hitting an animal while driving depends on where you live. 2016 Research by State Farm on the incidence of deer accidents highlights these differences: their findings indicate  that in Hawaii average drivers face a 18,955 to 1 chance of hitting a deer whereas in West Virginia the chance is closer to 41 to 1.
For drivers in areas with a lot of wildlife around, carrying a comprehensive policy makes sense — and for those who don’t live in such areas, you probably won’t need to worry about it.
Let’s review the key points:
- If you strike an animal with your vehicle this will be covered only if you have a comprehensive policy.
- If you swerve to avoid hitting an animal and scrape the guard rail this is typically covered under a collision policy.
- Although it is not required, filing a police report after a run-in with an animal is generally a good idea.
- Insurance premiums are tricky to predict, but in most cases claiming for this type of damage will not make your rates go up.
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