Car insurance and deer accidents. Who’s at fault and what happens next?

Car insurance and deer accidentsA customer recently contacted me nearly in tears that her husband had hit a deer. I immediately thought he had suffered serious injuries, and that’s why she was so upset.

Come to find out she was upset because she thought hitting a deer was an at-fault accident and her rates would increase.

Do you know what is considered an at-fault accident and what isn’t? Here’s a few examples that may help:
  • You hit another vehicle
  • You hit some other object, such as a house, fence, tree (you get the idea)
  • A single vehicle accident- such as sliding off the road or backing up and hitting a utility pole

Hitting a deer or ANY animal for that matter is NOT an at-fault accident. You have no control if Bambi decides he wants to get up close and personal.  And they’re so stinking fast, you seldom have time to react.

When you hit an animal it is paid under the comprehensive coverage of your auto policy, subject to the deductible. And when I say any animal, I mean it. We’ve had customers hit raccoons, groundhogs, turkeys and even horses.

So, once and for all: Deer accidents= NOT YOUR FAULT.

It’s deer hunting season in my corner of Ohio, so they’re everywhere (even in my backyard and I live in town).

Tips for when deer attack
  • If you see one, chances are good there are more eagerly awaiting the opportunity to become your hood ornament. Slow down considerably (of course if it’s crossing the street, you’ll have to stop competely.) Look all directions before you proceed and even then, stay under the speed limit for a few miles.
  • If you come upon a deer in the road and are unable to stop in time, hit it. Yep, that’s what I said. Hit that sucker and make it good (nothing worse than hitting the deer and watching it get up and run away.)  Your first instinct is to swerve to avoid it. If you do that, and wreck your car, it’s an at-fault accidents. You hit the deer, it’s not. So, say it with me: “Hit the damn deer!”
What you may be wondering about deer claims
  • If the deer crushes your front bumper, dents the side door AND breaks your windshield from the impact, that will be considered under one deductible. No separate deductibles for each item.
  • On the flip side, say you hit one deer one week, then a second deer the next week. Those are two separate accidents, and yes, you’ll have to pay two deductible. The deductible always applies per accident.
  • If you kill the deer, there’s a good possibility you’ll be allowed to keep it for the meat. I know this is the case in Ohio- not sure about other states. If you like venison, then it’s certainly something to consider. Small consolation for the damage to your car, but if you can feed your family as a result……
The claims process and helpful tips
At my office, Alan Galvez Insurance, here’s how we handle deer claims (please note- deer accidents fall under the comprehensive portion of the auto policy. So if you don’t have comprehensive coverage on the vehicle that hit the deer, none of this applies):
  • Get all the details, including the accident report number. Tip: if at all possible, call law enforcement to come to the scene and take an official report. Then you leave absolutely no room for questions.
  • Find out if there are injuries. If so, we want to make sure those injured have received proper medical attention and the extent of the injuries. Tip: If you have medical payments coverage on your policy, it pays for medical bills up to the policy limit for you and any passengers at the time.
  • Ask if the vehicle is driveable. Tip: If you have rental car coverage on your policy, and the vehicle is NOT driveable, we want to get that coverage activated ASAP so you can obtain a replacement vehicle.
  • Advise you to get an estimate for repair from a body shop. Tip: if you don’t know where to go to get the estimate, chances are good we can provide several reputable places.
  • Turn in the claim to the insurance company.

These claims usually get settled pretty quickly. Once the insurance company gets the estimate, they can cut a check, minus your deductible, and get it to you. You can then make an appointment to get the car fixed.

How about you? Ever had a run-in with Bambi or his little friends? Any other tips you want to share about deer accidents? It’s not uncommon to have a few a month at my office, so if you’ve got any helpful advice to share, it would be much appreciated.
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About Carrie Reynolds

During the day, I'm an Ohio Insurance Goddess, an agent, and a writer. At night, I turn into Supermom. My passions are marketing, writing, and making insurance easier for everyone to understand.

  • Amanda

    I hit a deer on my way home from work this evening. I was able to slow to less then 10 miles per hour and was able to move only hitting the butt of the deer. It however did a lot of damage to my car I can’t open my car door and the front bumper is pushed up significantly. I have full coverage on my car, since I am still pay my car loan and I live in the state of Maryland where I was just informed they have gone to a new system which actually just made my rates go up. I am afraid if I try and talk to my insurance agent she will have to report it. Can you tell me if there is any risk talking to my insurance agent? Thank you

  • jp3eku .

    Hello. I have a question about a recent tragedy. We own a 15 acre farm in KY. We have a horse barn and corral that we leased out month to month for $300 (each horse $100) to a lady that has 3 horses just 3 weeks ago. It is 100% self-boarded meaning she handles ALL care (feed, turnout, water, etc.). She is only leasing the premises. We are new to this and we’re not in the horse business (no actually company). I had her sign a hold-harmless lease stating that I am not liable for anything (whether its injury, accidents (including automobile), sickness, kicks, or even death, etc.). Two nights ago, 2 of the 3 horses broke out (not sure how they were spooked) of the outdoor corral and 1 of them got hit by a car. The horse was euthanized at the scene and the driver was uninjured and actually drove away in her car after the police filed the report. Later we find out that the insurance company totaled out the car. My question is: Who is responsible here? Its my land, corral, and barn. She is leasing the premises from me.. they are her horses that caused the accident… the lady that hit the horse has comprehensive insurance. Is this an act of God since no one did this on purpose? Could I be sued after her insurance company pays for her car? Is this the leasing lady’s problem? Could a civil or criminal case build? Please advise!

    • carriereynolds

      In my experience, both parties could be brought into the mix. Her horses, but also your property. There’s ownership for both parties involved, so I can certainly see how both of you would be brought into the mix. As to how the hold harmless agreement, would work, that would be up to the attorneys.

  • AeroStang.com

    Nice write up Carrie. Clear and to the point- Recently hit a deer with a vehicle, and your state specific information is great! (Near Cedar Point)

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