Who pays when you hit a deer?

Written by Andrew Freiburghouse and Gary Bangstad on November 7, 2011 & Posted in Auto Insurance

Collisions between cars and deer are on the decline, but you'll still be out thousands of dollars if you hit a buck or doe this hunting season.

While the number of deer-vehicle accidents has steadily dropped, the cost of repairs has been increasing to an average of $3,171. West Virginia has the most deer-vehicle accidents, with Iowa a close second. Other top states for deer collisions are South Dakota, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

If you have comprehensive coverage as part of your auto policy, your insurer will pick up the tab for repairs associated with a deer-vehicle accident. If you only have liability coverage, however, you'll have to pay.

Living in an area that has a large deer population naturally increases the risk of hitting a deer. So, even if you own an older vehicle it may be prudent to add comprehensive coverage to your policy. Your premium will likely be smaller than the cost to fix your car. Check the car's book value before deciding.

Drivers renting vehicles in areas populated with deer also need to be sure they are protected. The comprehensive coverage on the car you own should transfer to your rental, but confirm that fact with your insurance company before driving away with the rental. If you don't have comprehensive coverage, you can purchase a car rental loss damage waiver (LDW), which removes your liability for damages. The waiver costs anywhere from $9 to $19 a day and some carry a deductible.

Since avoiding an accident with a deer is the ideal strategy, here are steps to take to reduce your risk:

  • Be more aware at dawn and dusk, since that's when deer are most active.
  • Be aware and respectful of deer crossing signs.
  • Brake, but don't swerve if a deer comes into your path.
  • Don't rely on gadgets like a car-mounted deer whistle to get a deer out of your way.
  • If you strike a deer, your first instinct may to get out and see if the deer is OK. Instead, stay in the car--the deer is likely scared and could charge if you come near it.

About the Author

Andrew Freiburghouse is a writer and businessman. As a partner at Los Angeles tax preparation firm Pronto Income Tax of California, Inc., Andrew has served thousands of clients both face to face and over the telephone. Currently, Andrew lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is in the process of starting up his own tax practice.

Gary P. Bangstad, Ed. D. is a freelance writer in the area of business and insurance. Previously, he worked for Midwest Financial Planning LTD, selling insurance and investment products. He has also taught music at the university level.

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