Fast-moving and often weighing more than 100 pounds, a deer in the roadway poses a threat to even the most careful driver. Mating season and migration contribute to a dramatic uptick in vehicle-deer collisions during the fall, especially in Virginia, which is among the states with the highest risk of these types of collisions. For this reason, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance reminds drivers to stay alert, particularly when traveling during darker times of the day.
“November is the peak month for insurance claims related to vehicle collisions with deer,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott White. “Contact your insurance agent or company to determine if your policy provides coverage for this type of loss.”
Damage caused to your vehicle as a result of a collision with a deer or other animal typically are covered under the optional “other-than-collision” (also known as “comprehensive”) portion of your automobile policy. Some of the coverages provided by “other-than-collision” coverage are damage resulting from theft, collision with an animal, wind, hail and flood, as well as fire and vandalism. Keep in mind that if you have a liability-only policy, your policy does not cover your vehicle for damage resulting from an accident involving a deer or any other object.
The best way, of course, to avoid a collision with a deer altogether is to slow down and stay alert. If a collision is inevitable, however, you should stay in your lane and brake as carefully as possible. Though jarring, a collision with a deer is often safer for the driver – and for surrounding drivers – than swerving sharply and potentially hitting something else. Additionally, a collision with a deer is typically covered by the comprehensive portion of an insurance policy; whereas a collision caused by swerving – into a tree, for example – would instead typically be covered by the collision portion of the policy. Also, if you swerve and go into a ditch or hit a tree, your insurer may consider you to be at fault, which could cause your premium to increase.
Should you collide with a deer, notify law enforcement and your insurance company as soon as possible. Take pictures of the incident scene and any vehicle damage in the event you file an insurance claim. Don’t assume that your vehicle is safe to drive. Check for leaking fluid, tire damage, broken lights and other damage. When in doubt, call a tow truck.
The Bureau of Insurance stands ready to assist Virginians with their questions regarding auto and many other types of insurance. For more information, call the Bureau toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9741 or visit its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.