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Does car insurance cover hitting an animal?

Your car insurance will cover animal collisions if you have comprehensive coverage.

If you often head out on road trips or travel along roads where deer, elk or even pets could leap onto the road in front of you, it’s worth investing in a comprehensive policy that’ll cover the cost of repairs to your car.

Will car insurance cover hitting an animal?

Yes, as long as you have collision and comprehensive coverage, most wildlife-collision incidents will be covered be your car insurance policy. Guidelines vary between insurance companies and provinces, so the only way to know for sure what your coverage is for any given situation is to contact your insurance company.

One way to make sure you’re protected in either case is to buy full-coverage car insurance. Learn more about car insurance coverage options in our full comprehensive guide.

Does hitting an animal fall under comprehensive or collision coverage?

There’s no all-encompassing answer to this question. Each insurance provider will assess the factors involved in an animal collision to determine whether the situation falls under comprehensive or collision coverage.

In Ontario, for example, the guidelines generally depends on whether or not the animal was alive when you hit it.

If the animal was already dead and lying on the road when you ran into it, the situation usually falls under collision coverage, since it’s assumed that you would’ve been able to see the animal in advance and avoid it. Since it’s an at-fault accident, your insurance premiums may increase.

Alternatively, if you hit an animal that was alive and wandered onto the road, insurers in Ontario would likely classify the accident under comprehensive coverage, because the situation was out of your control.

Damage to your vehicle caused by swerving into another vehicle, tree, pole or other object to avoid hitting an animal can be a little trickier to assess. Some insurers classify that under collision coverage, while others may classify animal-related collisions like that more broadly under comprehensive coverage.

Since everything from the collision details to your insurance company’s guidelines and the province where you live, can all impact what kind of coverage you receive for an animal collision, it’s best to contact your insurance company directly to discuss your situation.

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Does hitting an animal raise auto insurance rates?

That depends on your province or territory and how the insurance company classifies the collision. If hitting the animal was considered a not-at-fault accident and was paid for under your comprehensive coverage, than the cost of your premiums won’t increase unless you make several claims around the same time. But if it’s considered an at-fault accident and paid for under collision coverage your insurance premiums may go up.

How to file a claim after hitting an animal

The steps for making an insurance claim after hitting an animal are similar to those for any other accident on the road.

  1. Stop your vehicle, pull safely to the side of the road and call 911.
  2. Get the name, registration and contact details of any other humans involved in the accident, including witnesses.
  3. Take photographs of the damage to your car.
  4. Decide if you want to make a car insurance claim.
  5. File your claim with your insurer and wait for approval to start repairs.

Should I file an insurance claim after hitting an animal?

It’s often a good idea to make a claim if the cost of damage is more than your deductible, and you can’t pay out of pocket. If there’s a significant amount of damage to your car, you’ll save the most by filing a claim.

On the other hand, if your deductible is more than the repair cost, it’s not worth going through the extra trouble of filing a claim with your insurance company. That’s only the case if no other person or property is involved.

You might also want to consider paying for the repairs out of pocket if you’re worried about your insurance premiums going up as a result of an at-fault collision with an animal. That may be worth it if the cost to repair isn’t too much more than your deductible.

What to do immediately after an animal collision

  • Stop your car. Pull over to a safe place and turn on your hazard lights.
  • Call 911 to report the accident. Even if nobody is injured, it’s still considered an emergency.
  • Don’t approach an injured wild animal. If the animal is alive, let the 911 operator know. They can tell you what to do next or contact the nearest animal control officers.
  • Wait for help. The police or animal control can come and assess the situation and help move debris from your car to the side of the road.

What if I hit a stray or someone’s pet?

The damage to the animal may be far worse than the damage to your car in this case. You might not need to make a car insurance claim unless your car suffered major damage to the tires, windshield or other areas.

If you hit a dog or cat, your instinct might be to try to get the animal into your car so you can get to the vet quickly. Be careful about approaching the animal. You don’t know if it’s tame or feral, and even tame pets can lash out when hurt or scared. The safest method is to call animal control and let them take care of the situation.

But if you choose to handle it yourself, make sure you have the supplies in your car to safely contain the animal temporarily until you can get to the vet or animal control. A box or leash is a good quick solution.

You’ll also want to protect yourself, so consider wrapping a shirt or jacket around your hands and arms to avoid getting bitten or scratched. Frequent animal rescuers will also know a can of wet cat food is a great lure for a stray or injured animal.

How to avoid hitting an animal

It’s difficult to predict animal collisions, but you can take some precautions to avoid hitting an animal in the first place.

  • Follow warning signs on the road advertising the presence of local wildlife.
  • Be careful around dusk and dawn, when animals like deer and elk are most active.
  • If you see any animals near or on the road ahead, slow down and expect there to be more you can’t see yet.
  • Honk your horn if you need to scare animals away from the roadside, but be prepared to stop well in advance in case the animal gets scared and tries to cross the road.
  • If you see animals or livestock on the road, report it to the local authorities to help out other drivers.
  • Have a passenger report objects and animals near the road using apps like Google Maps.

Bottom line

Hitting an animal can be scary, expensive and heartbreaking — especially if it’s a pet. If it happens to you, pull over, call 911 and call a towing company or roadside assistance if your car isn’t safe enough to drive home. If you have comprehensive car insurance, you can also file a claim so your insurer can cover the cost of the repairs.

If you want to learn more about how car insurance works and what it covers, read our comprehensive guide here.

Frequently asked questions about animal collisions

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