Hitting a deer is an unpredictable car accident that is fortunately covered by a specific component of car insurance called comprehensive, or comp, coverage. This is the part of auto insurance coverage that includes damage sustained from something other than a collision, like theft, vandalism, natural disasters like hurricanes and fires, and animal impact. It could even cover chewed-up wires from hungry rats.
Comprehensive insurance isn’t required, but having the right coverage in place means you may not have to foot the bill in the event of an accident.
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Collision insurance covers accidents where your car collides with something, but specifically doesn’t include hitting an animal. That’s covered by comprehensive coverage, sometimes called “non-collision coverage”. Hitting a deer would be covered by your comp insurance.
Some form of car insurance is required in almost every state, but collision and comp aren’t. That means you don’t have to have it, but at an average of only $12 a month, it’s an affordable way to make sure you don’t have to pay the entire cost of an accident on your own.
If you lease or finance your car, you most likely have comprehensive coverage; many lenders require that you get it. The best way is to check your insurance policy’s declarations page, which has information on your deductible, premium, how much you’re paying, and how often.
At the end of every policy period, your insurance company will look at your history and reevaluate your risk. If you caused, or were liable for an accident, the insurance company may deem you a higher level of risk and almost certainly increase your premium. But because hitting a deer is not considered at-fault, your provider will generally not raise your rates by much, though this does vary by state and depend on your history.
Your rates will also likely not be raised if you opted for accident forgiveness. An optional addition to your car insurance policy, accident forgiveness costs a small surcharge that nearly ensures your premium will not increase after an at-fault accident. Some insurance companies like Geico offer it for free, while others like Liberty or Farmers might require you to be accident-free for a specific amount of time in order to be eligible.
The deductible is how much you need to pay out of pocket before your insurer will contribute any money. Not all types of car insurance coverage require a deductible, but comprehensive and collision coverage do. Usually a higher deductible means lower premiums.
You will have to meet your deductible before your insurance provider pays for the cost of repairs, and in the event of a total loss, comprehensive coverage will pay you the actual cash value of your car.
Filing a claim after hitting a deer is similar to filing a claim for any other type of accident. If anyone is hurt, call 911 immediately, and proceed with the steps below.
Call the police if necessary. In the event of no bodily injuries or property damage, making a police report is not required, but may be needed to help clear the animal off the road.
Document the damage. Include photo evidence of blood or fur if the animal runs away.
Check to make sure your vehicle is in working order.
If witnesses were available, collect their information.
Make a report to your agent.
The insurance provider will assign a claims adjuster who will make an evaluation.
If you don’t hit the deer but swerve and miss instead, other types of car insurance coverage may come into play.
If you hit another vehicle, this type of car accident would be covered under collision coverage insurance. As the name suggests, collision covers physical damage to your car when it collides or crashes into something else, like a fence or tree, or another car. It doesn’t matter who is at fault in a collision, but there is a maximum on the amount your insurance provider will pay.
Collision coverage insurance is often bundled with comprehensive coverage. Learn more about the difference between collision and comprehensive coverage.
If you or any passengers sustained any bodily injury from hitting (or avoiding) a deer, your auto insurance policy would cover you under personal injury protection (PIP). PIP insurance pays for medical expenses after getting hurt in a car accident regardless of who is at fault. Required by some states, PIP insurance also covers lost wages, funeral expenses, and services like childcare.
According to State Farm’s annual deer-collision report, the most claims for deer-related accidents are filed from late fall to early winter. Exercise caution in low-light situations, using the high beam when necessary while driving. Watch out for groups and look out for deer crossing signs, especially in states with high deer runs.
The five states where you’re most likely to hit a deer are according to the study are:
If you get into an accident while visiting or passing through one of these states, your car insurance should still cover you.
The State Farm report also reveals that while deer-vehicle collisions are decreasing, the cost of damage from this type of car accident has increased. Since comprehensive coverage extends to a wide range of benefits, it may be something to consider, even if you don’t live in a state with frequent run-ins with deer.
Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in esate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.
Elissa has a B.A. in Film Studies from Barnard College.
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