As I was walking in the forest preserve, I saw a deer 

What does this have to do with my Third Thursday article?  It made me realize that even in the City of Chicago, there are deer and I saw one while walking in the forest preserve.  Although this topic doesn’t apply to often in the City, it got me to thinking about the legal aspects of hitting a deer.

Accidents involving deer can lead to catastrophic injuries, serious damage to your person and property, and sometimes, fatalities. It has been documented that these accidents are more often seen in late fall since this is the time frame in which deer migrate and hunters are out and about. Car insurance is particularly important for people who are likely to get into a deer accident since it can save you from paying thousands in out of pocket damages.

The Statistics

The number of animals such as elk, moose and deer that are involved in damages number in their millions on a yearly basis (1.5 million, to be exact). As a result, insurance losses totaling $1 billion which affect 1 in 169 drivers are common, according to State Farm and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. November is a month to watch out for since this is when collisions are at their highest on account of mating and hunting seasons. State Farm puts the average cost per insurance claim at $4,135, and it’s estimated that 191 passengers or drivers died in 2013 due to these types of accidents.

What Kind of Coverage is Ideal?

Comprehensive coverage, also known as full coverage, covers damages to a car should you hit an animal. If you’re in the habit of leasing a car, please be aware that your lender will need you to have this kind of coverage. That being said, all drivers should look into having a comprehensive plan, with the exception being that your care isn’t worth a substantial amount of money. If you have liability only, you will be out of luck when it comes to the damage to your car should you hit a deer.

The Bare Minimum

In a recent interview, Lori Vance, a West Virginia State Farm agent, remarked that most drivers are in the habit of getting the bare minimum when it comes to auto insurance, just enough to meet state requirements. For example, West Virginia requires drivers to get uninsured motorist and liability coverage. This practice effectively puts a lot of these drivers at risk given the fact that they have high odds of colliding with an animal such as an elk, deer or moose (probability statistics put this number at 1 in 44, which is said to be the highest of all states in the continental U.S.).
Vance further added that people suffered from the ‘it won’t ever happen to me’ mindset, and that many of them don’t want to pay for coverage they may never need, in their eyes.
It’s estimated that comprehensive coverage may boost annual premiums by up to $160 to $300. If you want to get this coverage by not paying too much, consider looking into a higher deductible.

Danger Zones
Top five states for collisions with deer, elk and moose
Rank    State      2015 chance    2014 chance
1    West Virginia    1 in 44         1 in 39
2    Montana           1 in 63         1 in 75
3    Iowa                  1 in 68         1 in 77
4    Pennsylvania    1 in 70         1 in 71
5    South Dakota    1 in 73         1 in 82

For more information on the different states and their raking when it comes to deer-car collisions, please check out this link.

Accident rates with animals such as deer are known to fluctuate with each passing year. This is because of variable factors such as the weather (especially in winter), the population of deer, the improvement as well as building of new roads which come with even higher speed limits.

Since November is the highest month with regard to deer hits, it’s important to be watchful during this month as well as in October and December when it’s estimated that you’re twice as likely to hit an animal compared to other months of the year. The reason for this, according to State Farm, is due to males traveling wide distances to breed as well as herd migrations.

Safety Tips

If you find yourself on the road during the period of dusk ‘til dawn, you’re more likely to hit a deer. Please follow these tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Pay close attention to the road when driving through zones that have been known to have lots of deer
  • Since deer move en masse, slow down once you see one animal as you’re most likely going to see others.
  • If you see a deer, never swerve since this could send you careening on to incoming traffic or off the road.

Got Into An Accident With a Deer?

Should you get into an accident despite your best efforts, take the following steps:

  • Turn on your hazards lights after moving your car away from the road. Grab your phone and call the police, and then document evidence by taking multiple photos of the accident area, passenger injuries as well as damage to your vehicle (this will help when filing an insurance claim).
  • It’s not uncommon for the animal to run away. Should they do so, take photos of their blood or any hairs left on your car or the scene to prove that a deer was the cause of the accident. This type of evidence can go a long way in helping you file a claim under comprehensive coverage.
  • If there are any witnesses, take down their contacts, and if they have time, request that they go to the police and report what they witnessed.
  • Always check to verify that your car is safe for operation after an accident regardless of whether or not the damage to it is minimal.  It is especially important to look for things like fluid leaks, broken lights or any parts that may have come off.
  • Never edge close to an injured or seemingly dead animal since they could jump up and inflict injuries on your person.

Deer are everywhere; because of this, none of us are safe from hitting them. Armed with great defensive driving tactics as well as comprehensive insurance, you can lessen your chances of sustaining injuries as well as having your insurance claim minimized or denied.