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Deer strike FAQ: Who pays when you hit a deer?

By Penny Gusner on October 13th, 2011

Drivers hit more than 1 million deer every year, especially during the mating season from October to December. Here's what you need to know:

If you hit a deer. You are not covered for a collision with a deer unless you have comprehensive coverage, the part of your car insurance policy that also covers theft and vandalism. You will have to pay your deductible.

If you wreck because you swerve to miss a deer. Oddly enough, if you miss the deer but still have a wreck, the car insurance claim now falls under your collision coverage. This means if you hit another car, a tree, a guardrail, or flip your car, but never actually hit the deer, that it's a collision claim. You still have to pay your deductible.

The state will not pay for damage, or your deductible. Though many states try to manage their deer populations, none of them will reimburse you after a collision. Lawmakers have proposed such a step in several states, but no legislature has passed such a law.

You should tell the police. The carcass could be a hazard to other motorists, and reporting it may be state law. A police report can help verify the cause of damage to your car, useful if your car insurance adjuster is undecided about the cause of the damage to your car.

You rates probably won't be affected. Comprehensive claims (such as those from striking a deer) generally do not increase car insurance rates, but collision claims can.

When driving during deer season, familiarize yourself with deer crossings that intersect with the roads you routinely travel. If, between dusk and dawn, you must travel these roadways, reduce your speed and look for deer.

To avoid a potentially deadly encounter on the road, keep in mind that:

  • Deer usually move in groups, but single-file. If you see one, there are probably more.
  • High beams better illuminate the eyes of deer at the roadside. Use them when you can.
  • Sunset to midnight and the hours shortly before and after sunrise pose the highest risk.
  • Swerving may be riskier than hitting the deer. A deer weighs less than 200 pounds; another car at least 3,000.
  • The best course of action if you see a deer in the roadway is to brake firmly, steer to maintain control of your car and try to stop safely within your lane or along the side of the road.
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