Does car insurance cover hitting an animal?

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

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If you often head out on road trips or travel along roads and highways 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, if you have a comprehensive policy. This will cover any damage to your car if you hit a deer or other animal. Comprehensive also covers you if you swerve to avoid the animal and hit a tree, pole or other object.

If you see a deer in the road, swerve your car and hit another vehicle, your collision coverage will kick in instead of your comprehensive. It’s considered a car accident at that point instead of an animal collision.

A full-coverage policy will pay to repair your car in either case.

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Does hitting an animal raise your insurance?

Usually no, but it depends on your state and insurance. Hitting an animal is generally considered a not-at-fault accident and will be paid for under your comprehensive policy, so it won’t affect your rates.

But if it’s considered a collision, for example if you swerve away from the deer and hit another car, your rates could go up. Also, some states allow your insurer to raise your rates after an accident where you weren’t at fault, in which case you could see a rate increase.

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 and pull safely to the side of the road.
  2. Get the name, registration and contact details of any other humans involved in the accident.
  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 a 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 your deductible is higher than the repair costs, there’s no point in filing a claim.

Also, if you swerved and hit another car or object, you’ll need to decide whether the cost of repairs is high enough to justify potentially raising your premiums.

If there’s a significant amount of damage to your car, you’ll save the most by filing a claim.

What to do after an animal collision

  1. Stop your car. Pull over to a safe place and turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Call 911 to report the accident. Even if nobody is injured, it’s still considered an emergency.
  3. 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.
  4. Wait for help. The police or animal control can come and assess the situation and help move debris 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 they’re 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. And frequent animal rescuers 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 are 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 Waze or 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. And if you have comprehensive or full-coverage car insurance, file a claim so your insurer can cover the cost of the repairs.

Frequently asked questions about animal collisions

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