I hit a deer! Now what?

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I hit a deer! Now what?

Lions, grizzly bears, alligators, sharks… which animal poses the greatest threat to humans?  The answer:  None of the above.  The animal that claims the most lives in the United States is the deer!  Yes, Bambi is more dangerous and more likely to kill you than a bear.  According to The Insurance Information Institute, there are more than 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and more than $3.6 billion, yes that’s billion with a “B” in vehicle damage.  The average insurance claim for a deer-vehicle collision is $3000.

As we’ve taken over their natural habitat, building houses and roads, deer are now more visible than ever in our habitat.  Though you can see deer at any time of the year, October, November, and December are highest in deer activity, mostly because it is mating season.  Deer/vehicle collisions also follow a fairly predictable pattern during a 24 hour period.  The highest deer activity, and by extension, the highest likelihood for collision is at dawn and dusk, 5am – 8am in the morning, and 5pm – 8pm in the evening.

What to Do if You See a Deer

If you are lucky enough to see a deer before hitting it, slow down as much as possible before possible impact. It may not stop the collision from happening, but it will hopefully minimize the damage to your vehicle and injuries to you and your passengers. Remember, deer are pack animals and are rarely alone.  Seeing one deer, usually means there are more in the area; so if you see one, be alert for others following.

Here are some additional defensive driving tips to avoid hitting a deer.

  • Be alert and drive cautiously when you are driving through a deer crossing zone
  • Use your high-beam headlights whenever possible
  • If you see a deer, slow down and never swerve. This may confuse the animal and make him run right into your vehicle.  It could also cause you to lose control and hit another car, pole, or tree.  Remember the adage:  Never veer, hit the deer.
  • Wear your seatbelt! Most people injured or killed in a deer/auto collision were not buckled in.

What to Do After the Accident

If you do hit a deer, don’t panic.  Use the following instructions to keep you and your passenger’s safe:

  • The first thing you need to do is call the police. Hitting a deer is considered an emergency. Call 911.  Even if there are no injuries to you or your passengers, there could be a dead or injured animal in the road, and your vehicle may be seriously damaged.  You want a formal police report to use when you file a claim with your insurance company.
  • If there are injuries and you need additional help and medical personnel, the 911 operator will send an ambulance to the scene.
  • Document the incident and take pictures of your entire vehicle, the road, and surroundings. If there are witnesses, ask for their names, addresses, phone, and email, and write down their account of what occurred.
  • Move your vehicle off the road to a safe place, if at all possible, and turn on your hazard lights. Place flares or hazard triangles in the road to warn other motorists of the accident.  If you can’t move your vehicle, move yourself.  Get off the road and out of the way while you wait for help to arrive.  Call for a tow truck if your car is no longer safe to drive.  Never stand in the road.
  • Stay away from the deer. Animals not killed on impact can be very dangerous if approached. The police will contact the appropriate authorities if the animal is injured or dead.
  • Contact your insurance agent. The sooner you report damage and injuries, the sooner your agent can file and process your claim.

Will Insurance Cover the Damages?

If you have a liability-only policy on an older vehicle, you will not have coverage for damage from hitting the deer. If you have comprehensive and collision coverage you will be covered. Accidents involving deer are considered a “comprehensive” claim and are never considered your fault. You’ll need to pay your deductible but your vehicle can be repaired without any major impact on your insurance premiums or driving record.

Talk to your insurance agent to see how your policy’s coverage applies.

The insurance professionals at Foundation Insurance Group, located in St. Matthews, Kentucky and serving the greater Louisville metro area, are always available to review your auto insurance policy and make recommendations to limit you exposure in case of an accident.  Contact your Foundation Insurance Group agent today.

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