Everything you need to know about deer collisions
Does my insurance cover hitting a deer?
If you hit a deer or swerve to avoid it and damage your car, your insurance can pay to fix it, provided you bought optional* comprehensive and collision coverages, which are normally sold together. You’ll be responsible for the deductible you selected when you bought your insurance (that’s the amount you pay out of pocket before insurance coverage kicks in which, for most people, is usually between $500 and $2,000). Your insurance can cover the rest of the repair costs. If the damage is so bad that your car is totaled, you’ll receive the retail value of your car (right before the crash), minus your deductible.
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If you hit another vehicle or damage someone’s property when you’re trying to miss a deer, your policy’s liability coverages would pay them for damage and injuries they suffer for which you may be legally liable. Collision coverage would also pay to fix your car if you hit the carcass of a deer (or any other object) that’s lying in the road.
If you’re hurt in the accident, your policy could cover your medical bills under personal injury protection (PIP), which is an optional purchase for consumers in Washington and required in Oregon. If your medical bills exceed your policy’s limits, your personal health insurance may help make up the difference.
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What should I do if I hit a deer?
Pull off the road if your car is drivable and turn on your hazard lights so you’re visible to oncoming drivers.
Call 9-1-1 if anyone is injured, your car is damaged or the animal is lying on the road. The police can remove it so it’s not a hazard to other drivers. Never attempt to move or render aid to a wounded wild animal since, in its panic, it could seriously injure you.
Photograph the damage, scene and road conditions. If another driver stops to help you, ask for their contact information in case they need to give an account of the accident.
Check that your car is safe to drive before leaving the scene. Look for things like leaking fluid and tire damage. If in doubt, call for a tow.
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Report the accident to PEMCO. You can contact PEMCO online or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO anytime, day or night.
Report the accident to the authorities. Complete a Vehicle Collision Report in Washington or Traffic Accident and Insurance Report in Oregon if anyone was injured or damages appear to exceed $1,000 in Washington or $2,500 in Oregon. You have four days in Washington and three days in Oregon to file your report.
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How can I avoid hitting a deer?
Use extra caution when driving between October and December, which is deer migration and mating season. That’s when half to two-thirds of all deer collisions occur, with average damages topping $4,000. These stay-safe tips can help:
Slow down in deer country, especially around dawn and dusk. Not only are deer more active then, but they’re also harder to see. Newer stretches of highway often have more deer collisions than established roadways. That’s because the animals are adjusting to changes in their habitat and may be attracted to tender new grass sprouting along the roadside.
Use your high beams as much as possible. They better illuminate the eyes of deer near the roadway.
If you see one deer, watch for more. Deer often travel in groups, and if one bounds across the road, others are likely to follow.
Brake steadily, but don’t slam on the brakes or swerve. You’re much more likely to lose control and wreck your car (hitting a solid object like a tree or rolling over) if you swerve to avoid a deer rather than hit it. Slow down safely, stay in your lane and maintain control of the car.
Don’t rely on aftermarket devices such as deer whistles. Evidence of their effectiveness is spotty and mostly anecdotal.
Honk steadily if a deer seems “frozen” in your headlights. The sound may be enough to scare it back into the woods.
Buckle up and, if you’re driving a motorcycle, wear a helmet. Deer collisions happen in an instant, and your risk of serious injury soars if you’re not properly protected.
Your likelihood of hitting a deer varies widely by state. According to 2021 data reported by Consumer Reports, your chances of hitting an animal (mostly deer) in Washington is 1 in 200. In Oregon, it’s 1 in 144. But if you drive in Idaho, it climbs to 1 in 103. And cross the border into Montana? Your risk skyrockets to 1 in 39!
*If you’re buying your vehicle with a loan, lenders typically require you to carry comprehensive and collision insurance on the car until it’s paid off.
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