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your guide to animal-related accidents

Hitting an animal with your car can be scary and stressful. Besides the emotional costs, animal collisions can be financially damaging as well.

How car insurance can cover you after you hit an animal

A run-in with an animal has the potential to cause a lot of damage. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, the average deer-car collision costs almost $3,200.

If you're surrounded by woods and wildlife, comprehensive coverage can become even more of an asset to your car insurance policy. (Despite its name, collision coverage doesn't pay for animal-related collisions.) Comprehensive can help cover any accident involving an animal.

What to do if you hit an animal

If you're in any type of car accident, make sure you and your passengers are okay. After that:

  1. Pull to the side of the road and put on your emergency lights
  2. Use flares (if you have them) to warn other drivers
  3. Call the police and report the accident

This last step is extremely important, as many state laws enforce strict penalties for fleeing the scene of an animal-related accident.

Next, take pictures of the scene if you have a camera handy. Document any damages to your vehicle. You'll send these pictures to your claims rep if you file a claim. If the animal's still alive, keep an eye on it to make sure the (probably terrified) animal doesn't attack before the authorities arrive.

How to avoid hitting an animal

Animals are most active during dawn and dusk, between 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Keep an eye out during these hours, and follow these tips to help prevent an animal collision.

Familiarize yourself with the area

If you know what to expect on the road, chances are you'll be better prepared for any surprises. For example, if you like to travel in the fall observing fall foliage, it'd help to know if the area you're visiting has a healthy deer population. Fall is deer mating season. And the more deer (especially mating deer) there are, the higher the risk for an accident.

As for your own neck of the woods, learn which roads wildlife like to use and stay alert when you use them. Roads with woods on either side are likely crossing spots for animals of all shapes and sizes.

Don't drive distracted

Distracted driving is dangerous. Because a crossing animal requires instant maneuvering on your part, put the potato chips down, place your cell phone out of reach, and keep your eyes on the road.

Avoid speeding

On many roads that crawl with wildlife, speed limits are lowered to prevent animal-related accidents. So don't discount those curiously low speed limits. They're there to help give you enough time to stop should an animal run out in front of you.

Brake, don't swerve

If there's enough distance between you and the animal, tap the brakes (to warn any drivers behind you), honk, then brake.

If the collision seems unavoidable, don't swerve. Swerving could cause an even bigger accident. Instead, stay in control of your vehicle, slow down as much as possible, and report the accident to the police and your insurer.

Animal collisions and your car insurance

Hitting animals — or being involved in any other type of car accident — can be traumatic. We're here to help ease your worries. If you have any unanswered questions on animal-related accidents, don't hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

Related links

Driving in the fall
From leaf-peepers to heavy fog, driving in the fall presents certain challenges.

File a claim
If you've hit an animal and your car's damaged, file your claim online anytime.