Oh, Deer: Here's What to Do If You Hit Wildlife With Your Car

by Team eLocal
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Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.

A scenic drive can quickly become a terrifying experience when wildlife runs in front of your car. That said, it’s also incredibly common. For those living in rural areas, looking out for wildlife crossing the road is a normal aspect of driving.

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Although these scenarios are scary, it helps to know what to do if you hit a deer or other animal.

What Immediate Steps Should You Take If You Hit a Deer or Other Wildlife?

As with any accident, first ensure that you and any passengers or other drivers are safe. Injuries caused by an impact with a large animal can be serious, so call 911 if anyone is hurt.

In most cases, you should move your vehicle out of the roadway. Leaving the car in the middle of the highway or near a blind curve can be dangerous to other motorists. Call for help if you can't move the vehicle or there's debris on the road. Turn on your hazard lights, and attempt to warn oncoming drivers if you can do so safely.

Call the Police

Generally, you should call the police anytime there are injuries or significant property damage due to an accident. Calling from the accident scene is the best practice because it lets police conduct an investigation right away and warn other drivers of road hazards. However, wildlife collisions can happen in remote areas with limited cell service, so you may need to travel to an area with cellular service or a landline to make your call.

Take Photos of the Accident

Take detailed photos of your car and the accident scene if possible. Your photos can serve as evidence and help you file an insurance claim. Taking pictures as soon as possible after an accident is ideal, but make sure everyone is safe first. For example, in some cases, the only safe choice may be to move the car off a busy roadway before taking photos.

Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company

Your car insurance may cover vehicle damage caused by hitting a deer. Although it's a good idea to call your insurance company promptly, this step usually isn't urgent. If you've met the requirements to contact the police and documented the accident with photos, you can call your insurer when it's more convenient. Some companies also allow you to report a claim online.

Occasionally, hitting a deer with your car can also cause an accident with another vehicle if you brake hard or swerve to try to avoid the animal. If another car was involved in the crash, remember to exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver.

Can You Just Drive Off?

Whether you must call the police for a wildlife collision depends on the accident's severity, what kind of animal you hit and your location. You'll also want to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive by checking for leaking fluids and loose parts.

Is It Illegal to Hit a Deer and Drive Off?

Accident reporting laws depend on the state where the crash happens. You'll need to stop and call the police if someone is injured. Additionally, drivers must report accidents causing property damage over a certain dollar amount, but the amount varies by state.

Some states require drivers to report all collisions with deer and may also require drivers to call the police for accidents involving other large animals, such as cattle, goats and bears.

There can be legal penalties for failing to comply with accident reporting requirements. If you aren't sure about reporting requirements, it's best to call the local authorities rather than drive away. Reporting the incident can also make the insurance claims process easier.

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Does Hitting a Deer Count Against Your Driving Record?

Hitting a deer or another wild animal with your car isn't usually considered a traffic violation, and it won't affect your driving record. However, hitting an animal could result in traffic or criminal penalties if you were intoxicated or driving recklessly.

Many insurers won't raise your rate if you hit a deer because these types of accidents usually aren't the fault of the driver. However, this can vary by company.

Will Insurance Cover Damage?

Your insurance will cover damage if you have a policy that includes comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive auto insurance covers damage to your vehicle caused by weather, vandalism and animals. Occasionally, collision insurance coverage may also come into play, but a policy that only includes liability coverage won't pay for damage to your vehicle. Regardless of your policy type, you'll have to pay your deductible before your coverage kicks in.

What If You Hit a Deer and There Are Injuries?

If any humans are injured, you should immediately report the accident and seek medical care for the injured party. If the animal is injured, you can contact local authorities for help.

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