Hitting a deer with your car isn't cheap. One of the nation's largest insurance companies says that auto repairs after a collision with an animal can cost $4,000 or more.
The most recent deer claim study by State Farm — released in October of 2017 — found that from July of 2016 through June of 2017, the average insurance claim made by a motorist hitting a deer was $4,179. That's up from $3,995 during the previous 12 months.
What should you do if you hit a deer, or another wild animal, while driving? First call police and then call your insurance company.
And when it comes filing an insurance claim you're going to need comprehensive coverage. Payouts are determined by individual insurance policies.
Comprehensive coverage is what you need
Sarah Haun, a certified professional insurance agent with Norton, Ohio-based Advanced Insurance Designs, says that hitting an animal with a car is covered by your insurance policy's comprehensive coverage, not its collision coverage.
This means that you'll first have to pay the deductible that comes with your comprehensive insurance coverage.
Say that deductible is $500 and your animal collision causes $2,000 worth of damage to your car. You'll have to pay for the first $500 worth of damage before your insurance company pays for the remaining $1,500.
Haun says that once you cover your deductible, your insurance company will either pay to cover all of the damage done to your car or up to your policy's coverage limit, whichever is less.
If your car suffers $5,000 worth of damage, but your policy only provides coverage for up to $4,000 worth of damages, you'll have to cover the difference.
"There is nothing a driver can do to get the 'maximum' amount of coverage," Haun said. "The insurance carrier isn't going to pay more than the damage, and the insured's policy will determine the absolute maximum amount of damage that will be covered."
Korey Adekoya, business development manager at Houston-based Shabana Motors, says drivers who don't pay for comprehensive insurance — usually motorists who own older cars — are often surprised to find that the insurance they do have won't cover an animal collision.
This can be a financial hit for many motorists. Adekoya says that depending on how fast you are driving, a collision with a deer or other animal could result in significant damage to your car, even a total loss in some cases.
"In order for your insurance to cover the costs of repairs, you will need to have comprehensive coverage," Adekoya says.
The good news? Adekoya says that your insurance rates shouldn't rise when you hit an animal.
Notify police if you hit an animal
John Espenschied, agency principal and owner with Insurance Brokers Group in St. Charles, Missouri, says drivers should always call the police after hitting an animal.
Doing so can help when it's time for motorists to work with their insurance carriers, Espenschied says.
"Having a statement by the police will help prove to the insurance carrier what happened," he says. "And taking photos will aid in getting the claim settled as quickly as possible."
After calling police, motorists should not approach an injured animal.
"Provided you've already contacted the authorities, there's really nothing else you can do," Espenschied says. "Trying to assist a wild animal might potentially cause more harm or stress on the animal and even injure you."
Haun says motorists should call police because it's usually best for the injured animal.
"Call the police," she says. "They will do what is appropriate to handle the animal. In most cases, that is contacting a wildlife division."