Oh Dear, Does Auto Insurance Cover Hitting a Deer?

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy flickr
I was visiting a friend in Palm Coast the other day, when two deer scampered across the road.  If you know anything about Palm Coast, you know the roads aren’t all that well lit.  It took all my driving skills to swerve to miss both the deer on the left and the line of mailboxes on the right.  Fortunately, I was only going 25, so I had time enough to avoid ruining Bambi’s day and mine.  While deer aren’t all that common in Jacksonville, the same can’t be said in other parts of north Florida.  In November of 2018, a teenager was involved in a fatal accident when he struck two deer that were crossing the road in Palatka only to swerve into a tree.  With deer mating season only a few weeks away, I thought I’d take the time to cover the dos and don’ts of dealing with deer on the road.

      1.       Deer in the Headlights – It’s estimated that there are currently more than 700,000 deer in the state.  With that in mind, it’s possible that you too could have an unexpected encounter with a deer in the near future.  In the months of October thru November, the odds go up for deer encounters, since this corresponds to their mating season.  Particularly early in the morning, or just before dark is when you’re most likely to have a run in with them, since this deer are nocturnal.  

Image courtesy army.mil
How do deer perceive the world? Unlike humans who rely primarily on sight to judge the world around them, deer have poor vision.  Their keenest senses are smell and hearing.  The problem is when deer hear a threat, they typically do one of two things: freeze or bolt.  Either of these can put them right in a driver’s cross-hairs.  While a doe tends to look before crossing a road, fawns generally scamper after their mother as soon as she reaches the other side.  That means if you see a doe standing by the side of the road, be prepared for her young to pop out of any nearby bushes.

      3.      What should you do? – Taking evasive action is much easier if you encounter deer on back-roads as opposed to the highway.  If you’re going 25 MPH or less, as I was the other day, stomping on the brakes could be your best bet.  If you’re traveling at highway speed, hitting the brakes could be a big mistake.  That’s because heavy braking can cause you to lose steering control.  From there, the odds of your avoiding the deer and/or a crash aren’t at all good.  The best way to avoid a deer on a highway is to take your foot off the gas and try your best to steer around the animal.  Just as with braking, less is more when it comes to making steering corrections.  If you suddenly jerk the wheel to avoid hitting a deer, you run the risk of losing control.  Better to hit a deer than risk rolling your vehicle over or winding up with your car barreling into oncoming traffic or wrapped around a tree. 

Image courtesy flickr
      4.      Your best bet to avoid colliding with a deer?Hitting a deer can do more than simply dent your car.  It can kill you and the deer.  Nationwide there are over 1.5 million deer-related accidents yearly, sending 10,000 to the hospital with around 200 fatalities.  While many of the fatalities are caused by people losing control of their vehicle after hitting a deer, some of them are caused by a deer being propelled through the car’s windshield.  A lot depends on whether the deer is stationary or moving.  A deer that runs across your path is much more dangerous than one that is standing still.  It’s also more likely to wind up atop the hood.  If you encounter a running deer, it’s best to steer toward its rear end, since it won’t be there by the time your vehicle’s front bumper gets there. 

      5.      What happens if you hit a deer? – If you do wind up hitting a deer, the first priority is to make sure that you and your passengers are alright.  The second most important is to make sure that other motorists are aware of the danger if the dead deer is lying on the road.  Above all, do NOT attempt to move the deer, since you risk being kicked if it’s still alive.  If it’s after dark and you have road flares, position these around the dead deer. If not and your vehicle is still operable, pull in front of the animal and turn on your flashers.   The last thing you want to happen is to survive the crash, only to have another vehicle plow into you when they try to avoid the animal in the road.  Either way, call 911 to report the incident to the police right away.  When the police arrive, they’ll move the deer and provide you with an accident report you can give your insurance agent.

      6.      Are you covered by your auto policy? – The comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy should help to repair your vehicle after hitting a deer.  The reason I say should, is it only pays out if you physically hit the deer.  If, on the other hand, you are involved in an accident after swerving to miss a deer, this would be covered under the collision portion of your auto insurance policy, minus your deductible.  If your vehicle was totaled in as accident with a deer, the maximum amount your policy will pay to help you replace the vehicle is stipulated in the comprehensive portion of the coverage.

      7.      Deer aren’t the only animals that cause accidents. – A couple of years ago, I swerved around a box turtle that was lumbering slowly across the road.  Parking my car on the median, I ran back to help the turtle across the road, only to see another driver jam on her brakes to screech to a stop inches away from the animal.  Unfortunately, the driver in the pickup truck behind her wasn’t as quick on the trigger and wound up plowing into the rear of her vehicle.  Try explaining that one to the police, since the turtle waddled into the weeds long before help arrived.  Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt, although both vehicles were undrivable.  The moral of the story is when it comes to dealing with small animals in the road, better to roll over one then cause a wreck.  If you do it right, they’ll pop up behind your car none the worse for wear. 
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on home owner’s insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Living in the big city makes most people forget that the wilds are only a few miles out of town in most places.

  2. Who knew that hitting a deer could put you in the hospital or worse? Great article.


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