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Is Road Kill Covered by Your Insurance?

Written by Gabby Hyman on February 3, 2010 & Posted in Auto Insurance

Hit a moose lately? Don't laugh; motorists in the United States routinely have serious run-ins with moose, deer, elk, and cattle on the open highway. In fact, thirteen western states have "open-range" laws which grant grazing animals the right to wander into the highway, day or night. Under these laws, running into property is the motorist's fault; if you kill something, you're responsible for paying for it.

Every year, some 200 Americans are killed in animal-vehicle accidents. More than a thousand motorists annually strike livestock in the western states of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. They run into moose and deer routinely in the Northern tier states, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and the Northeast. In Alaska, a decorated Iraq war vet was critically injured in a collision with a moose, and a Montana resident piled his pickup into an 830-pound grizzly. Vacationers in RVs have campsite run-ins with wildlife.

Comprehensive Insurance Can Cover Huge Losses
More than 1.5 million American drivers ran into deer last year. The New York Times reports an average $8,000 cost to settle a deer collision (towing, repair, carcass removal), with costs upwards of $30,000 in charges for impacts with elk, bison, or moose. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that deer accidents alone account for a minimum of $1.1 billion annual in vehicle damage, yet an estimated 36 million American drivers don't have comprehensive insurance.

Most deer accidents occur in Pennsylvania, where people are used to buying comprehensive insurance. The second-most deer accidents occur in Michigan, but consumers there are less inclined to insure for reasons that must be described as "incomprehensible."

Americans typically only seek comprehensive insurance when they're required to do so by lenders, or when they own high-priced vehicles. But while liability insurance may cover the cost of damage to property and animals, it won't pay for the damage done to you, your car, or your RV by a hungry bear or an irate buffalo.

Look Over Your Policy
If you reside in an "open-range" state or an area with lots of roaming animal life, consider comprehensive insurance. If you take trips each year in your RV, think about how cost of one incident can exceed what you'd pay for decades of comprehensive coverage.

Most comprehensive insurance plans cover items that aren't considered under collision insurance, such as "acts of God," vandalism, theft, fire, or a close encounter with Bullwinkle. Be sure to examine all the terms in writing. Are all animals covered (hawks, chickens, cows, squirrels, and bulls)? If you live in Pennsylvania, Montana, Alaska, Michigan, or another state with lots of critters, ask to see the precise clause covering animal-vehicular incidents and the associated premiums.

Sources
High Country News
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The New York Times
USA Today

About the Author

Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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