Hitting a deer can be traumatic and it happens frequently. According to State Farm, Rhode Island drivers over the past year had a 1 in 127 chance of striking an animal. Risk increases at dusk and dawn and during deer mating season.
Deer collisions are also costly. RI.gov states “the average collision can cost between $2,500 and $6,000”. Even so, some collisions total vehicles. However, many people wrongfully assume their auto insurance will automatically provide compensation.
In truth, much depends on precisely what happened and your insurance coverage. Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios.
Direct Contact with the Deer
You’re driving at night and a deer leaps out in front of you. You can’t stop and slam into the animal. Luckily, you have comprehensive coverage.
Comprehensive coverage (also referred to as “Other than collision” coverge) provides compensation for damages to your vehicle when hitting an animal. This may even apply if the deer runs into you when you’re at a standstill or driving.
However, Rhode Island state minimum coverages provide no protection for you and your vehicle. State minimum liability insurance only provides minimal liability coverage for damages and injuries you cause to other parties.
Injuries Caused by Hitting a Deer
Rhode Island state minimum coverages do not protect you or your passengers. Injuries caused by hitting a deer aren’t covered by comprehensive coverage either.
However, medical payments coverage would offer compensation for medical bills if you hit a deer.
Swerve & Hit Something Else
If you swerve to miss the deer and hit another vehicle or object, you need collision coverage to cover your damaged vehicle. Collision coverage provides compensation for vehicle damages after you collide with an object (other than an animal), but it does not cover medical expenses.
Liability insurance covers damages caused to other people and other property. Nonetheless, state minimum coverages are woefully insufficient. If you’re found at-fault, you could be held liable for medical bills, legal fees, and a settlement since your coverage is so low.
What Should You Do Later?
If you do hit a deer, follow these tips to protect yourself and others:
- Move your vehicle to safety and turn on your hazard lights – don’t leave the scene
- Rhode Island state law requires you to call the police and report any deer collisions to DEM’s 24-hour Dispatch Office at 222-3070
- Fill out an official police report – this can be helpful during your claims process
- Take photos of the roadway and your vehicle
- Record witness information
- Stay away from the animal – it could injure you
- If the deer runs away, photograph any physical evidence such as blood and hair
- Contact your insurance company, report damages and injuries, and start a claim – contact is required by state law
- Check your vehicle carefully for damage before driving – a deer collision may cause a coolant leak, engine damage, brake problems, a front-end misalignment, or other less obvious problems
- Call a tow truck if your vehicle’s sustained substantial damage – otherwise you’re putting yourself and others at risk.