What You Need to Know About Hitting an Animal With Your Car

Comprehensive car insurance covers damage from hitting an animal with your vehicle. The average rates for comprehensive coverage in the US are $11.57/mo.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses...

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
Founder, CFP®https://res.cloudinary.com/quotellc/image/upload/insurance-site-images/ciccom-live/41b5e36b-joel-ohman.jpg

UPDATED: May 12, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Spring and fall are the most common animal mating seasons, which means your chances of hitting an animal during this time doubles.
  • The number one culprit for animal collisions in the United States is deer.
  • It’s estimated that the insurance industry paid about $1.1 billion in deer-related car collisions in the year 2002.

So you’re driving down the road on the way home from a long day, and suddenly an animal jumps out in front of you. What do you do?

Well, that’s what we’re here to help you with. We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the things you should know, and what you should do if you were ever to hit an animal while out on the road.

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What are the most common animals hit by cars?

It’s pretty reasonable to assume that you’re not going to have to worry about hitting a giraffe if you’re out on the road. But there are a number of common animals that you will want to keep an extra eye out for.

Top Collisions With Animals by State

Animal collisions are no joke and can cause serious harm not only to your vehicle but to you and your passengers.

Check out the video below to see just how dangerous animal collisions can be.

So equipping yourself with the information on how to prepare yourself should this ever happen to you, is definitely a good idea.

Let’s get down to some numbers, just to give you a better idea as to just how prevalent animal collisions are in the United States.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the following number of deaths have occurred with animal collisions starting from 2010, up to 2018:

Car Crash Fatalities Caused by Collisions With Animals (2010–2018)
YearJanuary to MarchApril to JuneJuly to SeptemberOctober to DecemberTotal
201020628744213
201119447165199
201220506244176
201315547449192
201418506038166
201515475968189
201620555856189
201720646563212
201820606743190

Yes, you read that right — deaths. Fatalities caused by animals is an unfortunately common occurrence, particularly in more rural areas where larger populations of animals are.

Depending on where you live, you may also be more prone to animal collisions than other places.

Car Crash Fatalities Caused by Collisions With Animals by State (2009–2018)
State2009201020112012201320142015201620172018Total
Alabama132519231330
Alaska110430302317
Arizona612420314225
Arkansas244334471234
California496444259451
Colorado563276745247
Connecticut00002001205
Delaware00100010002
Florida686561445651
Georgia398325543749
Hawaii01001000002
Idaho315331212021
Illinois6137454874866
Indiana4513932557760
Iowa941243022532
Kansas642472477346
Kentucky245034443635
Louisiana152132012118
Maine231203421119
Maryland102440111216
Massachusetts11011000105
Michigan91476987151714106
Minnesota385883836961
Mississippi430113534226
Missouri437523467647
Montana5443101463343
Nebraska324321413225
Nevada00022111119
New Hampshire311100401112
New Jersey011133213217
New Mexico234142265130
New York297344945653
North Carolina378542851346
North Dakota110114111213
Ohio6478844610360
Oklahoma635236843646
Oregon122412200721
Pennsylvania5910715108131511103
Rhode Island10000001002
South Carolina538558743654
South Dakota643221033327
Tennessee533784224644
Texas20182115182522192716201
Utah331111113217
Vermont11000021005
Virginia438443135540
Washington540232134125
West Virginia200122332217
Wisconsin8161216713713137112
Wyoming421210321117
U.S. Total1842131991761921661891892121901910

As you can see from the table above, Texas has the highest number of deaths associated with collisions with animals. This data makes sense considering how large the state of Texas is, how many people live in Texas, and how large the animal population is. We listed the other top states for animal collision fatalities in the picture below.

top states for animal collisions

Meanwhile, you have states such as Hawaii or Connecticut that have a lot fewer deaths associated with animal collisions.

All of this to say that animal collisions are something you can never predict for because, as you could see from the earlier video, it can happen in the blink of an eye.

But what animals should you be more wary of?

The following animals show the highest numbers of collisions with vehicles:

  • Deer
  • Cow
  • Moose/Elk
  • Horse
  • Racoon
  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Birds

The number one animal on this list? Deer. That’s right, deer are the typical culprits for animal collisions.

In fact, according to a Wilderness and Environmental Medicine study, “insurance data indicate the insurance industry paid roughly $1.1 billion in deer-related claims in 2002, with an average cost per claim of $2000, varying depending on the type of vehicle and the severity of the damage.”

Animal Seasons to Avoid

There are particular times of the year in which you might find a higher population of particular animals that you might with other types.

You’ll want to know some of these animal mating seasons to help you better prepare yourself.

The biggest one you’ll want to be aware of? Deer mating season.

The months of October and November is deer mating season, and as such, these months show the highest number of collisions with a large animal.

Larger animals, in particular, pose the largest threat for catastrophic vehicular accidents, and according to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 84.8 percent of those in motor vehicle accidents involved larger animals.

Below, we’ve provided some of the known mating seasons for some of the larger animals known for drivers to be at an increased rate of having an accident with:

animal mating seasons

So the seasons most known for animal mating seasons are in the spring, and in the fall.

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Car Insurance for Hitting an Animal

If you are ever involved in a collision with an animal, you’re going to want to make sure you have the appropriate car insurance to cover the costs from that collision.

Car Insurance Coverage and Animals 101

Let us start off by saying that getting involved in an accident with any animal can be pretty costly.

Don’t believe us? Check out the data below from the Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology on just how costly it can be, using the average costs from a collision with a deer:

  • Vehicle Repair Costs – $1,840
  • Average Medical Costs – $2,702
  • Towing and Law Enforcement Services – $125
  • Monetary Value of the Animal – $2,000
  • Carcass Removal and Disposal $50

In total, from these calculations, it could cost you about $6,717.

And not only that, but costs can get even higher if your car collides with an animal even larger than a deer, such as an elk or a moose.

So what kind of protection can you give yourself to help with a cost like that?

The optimal coverage for an accident, such as an animal collision, is going to be comprehensive insurance coverage.

What exactly is comprehensive insurance coverage, and why is it so important for such occasions?

Comprehensive insurance coverage will basically cover accidental damage to your vehicle that’s not related to a collision with another vehicle.

Common things that are covered by comprehensive insurance coverage are as follows:

  • Natural disasters
  • Hail damage
  • Tornado damage
  • Flood damage
  • Hurricane damage
  • Fire damage
  • Trees/limbs falling onto your car
  • Hitting a deer, dog, or other animals
  • Theft
  • Vandalism

In our scenario for this guide, this coverage is what’s going to best help protect you for a collision with an animal.

Now, a lot of people get comprehensive insurance coverage confused with another coverage type known as collision coverage.

Keep in mind though, collision coverage will pay for your damages after you cause a collision, so this coverage option will not be useful to you in this scenario.

To help you tell the difference, we’ve put together the table below on what kinds of incidents are covered by each coverage type.

Comprehensive vs Collision Car Insurance Coverage
Subjects for comparisonComprehensiveCollision
Collision with an animalCoveredNot covered
Coverage limitVehicle valueVehicle value
Damage to another vehicleNot coveredNot covered
DeductibleTypically, yesTypically, yes
Fire damageCoveredNot covered
Medical costsNot coveredNot covered
RequirementOnly required if vehicle is leased or financedOnly required if vehicle is leased or financed
Single-car accidentNot coveredCovered
VandalismCoveredNot covered
Vehicle damage after a collision with non-vehicle propertyNot coveredCovered
Vehicle damage after an at-fault accident with another vehicleNot coveredCovered
Weather damage (hail, fallen tree limbs, tornadoes, etc.)CoveredNot covered

As you can see, animal collisions are not covered by collision coverage.

If you’d like a better insight into comprehensive coverage, be sure to check out the video below for a further explanation from Allstate.

Steps to Follow If You Hit an Animal

Now, if you ever are involved in an accident with an animal, you’ll want to know what steps to take.

We’ve put together a few important steps to help you out.

Your Safety First

If you’ve just hit an animal, you first need to prioritize your safety. First and foremost, check to see whether you or any other passengers in your vehicle are hurt.

Larger animals are known to come through the windshield and can cause some pretty hefty injuries, so make sure no one is hurt and take proper medical precautions if anyone is injured.

After you’ve made sure everyone is uninjured, you’ll need to make sure you move your vehicle safely off to the side of the road. Put your hazard lights on, and don’t rush out to try and deal with the animal itself.

Depending on the Severity of the Collision, Notify the Police

Let’s say you’re driving and a deer pops out, but you only knick it’s backside before it goes running off into the trees. In this case, you wouldn’t necessarily need to notify the police.

Now, if you were in a full-on collision with a deer, then you would absolutely want to notify the police.

The larger the animal and the more damage to your vehicle, that could cause traffic and other hazardous conditions to other drivers on the road, so law enforcement is going to want to know about it.

Based on just how much the animal did to your vehicle, and whether anyone in your vehicle was injured, you may have to fill out a police report in addition.

The good news about this though, is that filling out a police report will help you with any insurance claims you need to make for the damages from the accident.

Any further information you can collect for your insurance claim will also help you in the long run. It can be as simple as taking your phone out and recording a video of the damage.

Remember, the more information you can provide your provider, the better coverage they can offer you based on what coverage you have on your policy.

Leave the Animal Alone

We cannot emphasize this enough but do not touch the animal that you’ve collided with. Police will help you move the animal if it’s large.

You may not necessarily know if the collision killed the animal. If it’s still alive, it is likely to start trying to kick out, making for an extremely dangerous situation on top of an already dangerous one.

Law enforcement will put on their lights to let people on the road know to avoid the area, and they will have animal control come out to take care of the animal itself.

Call Your Insurance Provider

Once you have dealt with filling out any police reports, you’ll want to make sure you notify your insurance provider.

You’ll want to report any injuries you received during the collision, send any pictures or videos you took of the incident, and complete any further instructions that your provider requires.

Don’t wait until later to do this, as your memory is always better immediately after the incident, so you’ll be able to give a better report of the accident then if you were to wait. Remember, the sooner you report damages to your provider, the sooner they’ll be able to provide you with the compensation you’ll need.

If Your Vehicle Isn’t Safe to Drive, Call a Towing Service

Getting into an accident with an animal, especially a larger animal, can wreak havoc on your vehicle.

Check out the video below to see just how devastating a collision with a large animal can be.

In this case, your vehicle may not be safe for you to drive back home. You’ll then want to call a towing service to take your vehicle to the appropriate repair shop.

Tips to Help you Avoid Hitting Animals on the Road

While hitting an animal is one of the most unpredictable events that a driver can experience, there are ways to help cut down on your chances of this happening to you.

Windshield Coverage

If you live in a particularly rural area, your chances of hitting an animal go up even more than if you were to live in a more urban area.

So if you’re looking for additional protection for your vehicle, having windshield coverage will do just that. The good news is that if you sprung for the comprehensive insurance coverage, this coverage option is typically also provided under it.

If you do not have comprehensive coverage, but want windshield coverage for the protection, depending on your provider, you may be able to add just this coverage.

Headlights

A majority of animal collisions occur when there’s less visibility on the road. If you can’t see well on the road, you’re not gonna see that animal on the road until you’re right on top of it.

Making sure you have adequate lighting is key for having the optimal visibility on the road.

If you’re on a rural road, opt to turn on your high beams so that you can see better. If you’re in a more urban area, just make sure that your vehicle’s headlights have been checked recently and are giving proper lighting.

Checking your Vehicle

During the winter, a lot of smaller animals will tend to find locations where they can be warm in the open. So under the hood of your vehicle is the perfect place for them to curl up.

This can obviously be devastating if you were to turn your vehicle on, while the animal is still inside. To avoid this, just make sure that if you leave your vehicle out in the open and it’s winter, just double check before you turn your car on.

You did it, you’ve made it to the end of this comprehensive guide. We hope that we were able to provide you with the information you’ll need should you ever be involved in a collision with an animal.

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