An animal strike isn’t uncommon, especially during the autumn months of October, November and December when chances of hitting a deer or other large wildlife doubles. According to data analysis by State Farm of 2021-22, drivers on average have 1 out of 109 chance of hitting an animal while driving.
Look out when driving, especially at dawn and dusk, but if an animal does dart out in front of your car and you make contact, your car will be covered as long as you have comprehensive — which is part of full coverage. And if you swerve and hit a tree instead there is also coverage for that, too, under your collision policy.
Keep reading to see what you know about driving and animal strikes.
If you hit a wild animal: Comprehensive coverage
Hitting an animal on the road (the most common is a deer collision) is covered by comprehensive coverage. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your car, you’re out of luck. In some states, laws or insurance regulations keep car insurance companies from raising your rates if you make a comprehensive claim. Even in the states whose laws do not stop car insurance providers from raising rates due to a comprehensive claim, many auto insurance providers will not increase your premiums due to a comprehensive claim. It is not the same for collision claims.
If you avoid hitting an animal, damaging your car: Collision coverage
If you are driving and swerve to avoid hitting an animal but damage your car by driving into a ditch or a pole, you may file a claim under collision coverage. Without collision coverage on your car insurance policy, your car’s damages will not be covered. Collision claims often raise your rates, so you should evaluate the damage and decide if you’d rather pay out of pocket.
When a deer appears in front of you on the road, it may be natural to try and dodge the animal, but state Departments of Transportation advise drivers not to swerve if a deer jumps out in front of you and a collision seems inevitable. Swerving could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or put you in the path of an oncoming vehicle; either may end up causing more damage and injury than if you hit the deer.
If you injure your own pet: No coverage
Technically, because your pet is your own property, your vehicle’s property damage liability insurance would not normally pay veterinarian bills if you hit your own pet with your car. In general, your own vehicle’s liability coverage never covers your own personal items that you hit — your mailbox, garage door, fence or pet. Some auto insurance policies include coverage for pets, but this is if they are harmed inside of your vehicle during an auto accident, not if they were outside the vehicle and hit by your car.
If you injure someone else’s pet: Liability insurance
You could use your car’s liability insurance to pay someone else’s veterinarian bill if you injure their pet with your car. You may, however, have a case to say you were not negligent and thus not at fault and have to pay if the pet was off its leash in a roadway or driveway. In most states, you wouldn’t be totally liable since the owner should have control over their pet. If that is the case, you may be assigned a portion of liability, and your auto policy may pay for a portion of the pet owner’s related bills, depending on your state’s negligence laws.
State Farm Simple Insights. “How likely are you to have an animal collision?” Accessed January 2023.
— Michelle Megna contributed to this story.