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Does car insurance cover hitting an animal?

Your policy will cover your car's damage after an animal collision if you buy extra coverage.

If you drive along roads where deer, elk or other animals might run in front of you, it’s worth investing in extra coverage in case you hit an animal or swerve and hit another car. A policy with liability, comprehensive and collision coverage will make sure that you have protection for almost any situation involving an animal. If you do hit an animal, you’ll want to call the policy for an accident report for your insurance claim and to properly take care of the animal.

Will car insurance cover hitting an animal?

Yes, but only if you buy comprehensive coverage on your car insurance. With comprehensive coverage, your policy will cover any damage to your car if you hit a deer or another animal. This coverage also protects you if you swerve to avoid an animal and hit a tree, pole or another object.

On the other hand, if you see a deer and swerve into another vehicle, your car insurance should already protect you for the liability damage to that person’s car or property.

You will need collision coverage on your policy to kick in for your car’s damage, rather than comprehensive. Because you hit another car, the accident is considered a collision. One way to make sure you’re protected in either case is to buy full coverage car insurance.

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Does hitting an animal raise auto insurance rates?

Usually no, but it depends on your state and insurance. Hitting an animal is generally considered a not-at-fault accident that’s paid for under your comprehensive coverage. So it won’t affect your rates unless you make several claims around the same time.

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 aren’t at fault, in which case you could see a premium hike.

Top 10 states where you’re most likely to hit an animal

Drivers file nearly 2 million animal collision claims each year, according to an annual State Farm study. Overall, drivers have 1 in 116 chance of hitting an animal, but the chances are even higher in one of these states.

StateChances of hitting an animal
1. West Virginia1 in 37
2. Montana1 in 47
3. Pennsylvania1 in 51
4. South Dakota1 in 53
5. Michigan1 in 54
6. Wisconsin1 in 57
7. Iowa1 in 58
8. Mississippi1 in 59
9. Minnesota1 in 64
10. Wyoming1 in 64

How to file a claim after hitting an animal

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

  1. Get contact information like the names, phone numbers and insurance policy numbers for anyone involved in the accident, including witnesses.
  2. Get proof of the damage. Take photographs and call the police to get a report of the incident.
  3. Decide whether to make a claim. In minor incidents when no other people are involved, some drivers decide to pay for the repairs themselves. Comprehensive claims typically don’t raise your rates if you haven’t made many other claims.
  4. Report your claim. Call your insurance company or use the claims portal online to report the details of the accident.
  5. Work with your claims rep. A representative will reach out within a day or two to confirm details and set up a time to view your car’s damage. Once the claim is approved, you can get a repair estimate from a mechanic and start repairs.
  6. Finalize the paperwork. The claims rep will send an offer to pay for the repairs along with other paperwork to settle your claim. If you agree with the payment and terms, you can sign the paperwork and get your claim check or have the payment sent to the mechanic.

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 unless another person or someone else’s property is involved.

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

What to do 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 to the side of the road.

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

If you were driving in a residential area and hit someone’s stray pet, you’ll want to let the police handle the situation. Your instinct might be to try to get the animal into your car so you can get to the vet quickly. However, rely on the police and animal control to help the animal or give you instructions on what to do.

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 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. If you have comprehensive car insurance, you can also file a claim so your insurer can cover the cost of the repairs.

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