Deer-vehicle collisions are unfortunately very common, especially during certain times of the year when deer are more active. If you hit a deer with your car, you’re probably wondering what your auto insurance covers when it comes to these accidents. Liability insurance is the minimum amount of car insurance required in most states, so does it provide any protection if you hit a deer?
What is Liability Insurance?
Liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage that you cause to others when driving your vehicle. There are two main types of liability coverage:
- Bodily Injury Liability – Pays for injuries that you cause to other people in an accident. This coverage has a per person and per accident limit.
- Property Damage Liability – Pays for damage that you cause to another person’s vehicle or property in an accident. This has a maximum limit per accident.
Liability insurance does not cover damage to your own vehicle or injuries to you or your passengers. It only covers damage and injuries you cause to others. Hitting a deer typically only causes damage to your own car, so liability insurance alone won’t provide coverage in these situations.
Why Liability Insurance Doesn’t Cover Hitting Deer
There are a couple main reasons why liability insurance doesn’t apply when you collide with a deer:
- No other “liable” party – Liability insurance only pays for damage/injuries when the policyholder is legally liable and therefore responsible for paying. With deer collisions, there is no one to hold liable – deer don’t have insurance!
- No “property damage” to pay for – Liability insurance only covers damage to someone else’s property. A deer is not considered property under insurance definitions, similar to if you hit a tree or other stationary object. The only damage is to your own vehicle.
- Not considered “at-fault” accident – Hitting a deer is considered an unavoidable accident and not the driver’s fault. Deer can dart out suddenly, especially at night. Liability insurance only covers accidents that are caused by the policyholder’s negligence and lack of due care.
While liability insurance doesn’t offer protection for deer collisions, there are other coverages that can help pay for damage.
What Does Cover Hitting a Deer?
If you want your auto insurance to help pay for vehicle damage from a run-in with a deer, you’ll need coverage beyond just standard liability. Here are some options:
Comprehensive coverage helps pay for damage from non-collision incidents, including deer collisions. It covers events like hail damage, floods, vandalism, and yes – hitting animals like deer, moose, birds, bears, and other wildlife.
Comprehensive has a deductible, so you pay the deductible amount and your insurer covers the remaining repair costs. It’s optional but highly recommended since liability alone won’t cut it.
Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle when you collide with an object. While deer collisions technically fall under comprehensive, some insurers may cover the damage under collision instead.
Like comprehensive, collision has a deductible that you’ll need to pay before coverage kicks in. It covers damage from collisions with deer, other vehicles, poles, guardrails, and other objects.
Car Rental Coverage
If your car is out of commission after hitting a deer, rental car coverage can pay for a rental while it’s being repaired. There are two options:
- Rental Reimbursement – Your insurer reimburses you for rental car costs up to a daily and total limit.
- Rental Car Coverage – Some insurers provide a rental car you can use, equivalent to your own vehicle.
Rental car coverage is optional but a good idea to avoid paying for a rental out of pocket.
Roadside assistance can provide towing if your vehicle is disabled after hitting a deer. It can also help with lockouts, flat tires, and other emergencies.
Roadside assistance is an optional add-on with most insurance companies. If you don’t have it, you’ll need to pay towing costs yourself or through your auto club if you have one.
Steps to Take After Hitting a Deer
If you do collide with a deer, here are some key steps to take:
- Move your vehicle to a safe place and turn on your hazard lights if possible. Don’t stay pulled over in an unsafe location.
- Call 911 if anyone in your vehicle is injured. Provide medical assistance if you can safely.
- Alert the police so they can file an accident report. This helps document the incident with your insurer.
- Take photos of your vehicle damage and the scene. Get photos of the deer if it’s still nearby.
- Call your insurance company to report the accident. Provide details and the police report number.
- Don’t attempt to move an injured or killed deer. Alert the police so trained professionals can handle it properly.
- Get your vehicle towed to an auto repair shop for an estimate. Many insurers require you to file a claim before getting repairs.
Preventing Deer Collisions
While deer collisions can happen unexpectedly, there are things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Use extra caution dawn and dusk when deer are most active.
- Scan roadsides carefully for reflections of deer eyes at night.
- Slow down and be alert in known deer crossing areas.
- Apply bright lights to give you more reaction time.
- Brake firmly but stay in your lane if you spot a deer. Swerving can cause loss of control.
- Use deer whistles and reflective devices to deter deer. Their effectiveness is debated however.
- Look for deer crossing signs installed by transportation departments.
- Maintain adequate insurance in case an accident does occur. Comprehensive and collision coverages are key.
Is Filing a Claim Worth it?
If damage to your vehicle isn’t too extensive, you may debate whether filing an insurance claim makes sense after hitting a deer. Here are some factors to consider:
- Your deductible amount – If repairs will be close to or under your deductible, paying out of pocket may be easier.
- Rate increases – A claim could raise your premiums at renewal time. Weigh the long-term costs.
- Repair complexity – Major mechanical damage or replacements may make a claim worthwhile.
- Rental needs – Will you need a rental car while yours is in the shop? Insurance can help cover rental costs.
- Financial situation – If money is tight, a claim may be the best way to get your car fixed.
Knowing what deer collisions coverage you have and the claims process can make decisions easier if you ever find yourself in this situation.
- Liability insurance alone does not cover damage to your vehicle from hitting a deer. It only covers damage and injuries you cause to others.
- Comprehensive and collision coverages pay for damage from deer collisions, minus your deductible.
- Take photos and file a police report after hitting a deer to document the incident.
- Preventive measures like driving cautiously at dusk/dawn can help avoid deer accidents.
- Consider factors like your deductible and premium impacts when deciding whether to file an insurance claim after hitting a deer.
Collisions with deer or other animals can happen unexpectedly. Drivers should know what insurance coverage options exist in case the worst happens. If you have liability insurance only, strongly consider adding comprehensive or collision to provide protection in these all-too-common deer situations. Let me know if you have any other questions!