Can I get someone else to pay for the damage to my car if I hit a deer?

December 22, 2017

A question we’ve gotten from time to time:

If there’s no deer warning sign on a road, and my car hits a deer, can I get my insurer to pay for it?  Could I sue the government for failing to post deer crossing signs?

Deer Crossing MUTCD Sign

In general, the answer is that your insurer may cover it, and the government almost certainly will not.

Let’s start with some background on deer and their habits.  Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, and are most vulnerable during the autumn mating season.  (Then, the deer focus on mating, and not on passing traffic.)  According to insurance carrier State Farm, about 1.3 million claims per year are filed with insurance carriers for vehicle-deer collisions. On average, the average deer claim cost over $4,000 in 2015, mostly for damage to the front of a car.  The highest rates of these types of accidents happened in West Virginia, where 1 in 44 motorists had an accident involving deer, elk or moose in 2013.

Deer Crossing Road

For most insurance carriers, deer-related damage would be covered by your insurer only if you have comprehensive coverage.  Collision-only coverage doesn’t normally cover accidents where you hit wild animals, though your collision coverage may cover you if you get into an accident because you swerved to avoid a deer, and run into something else.

As for suing the government for failing to post a deer sign, you’re probably not going to have much luck with that.  Wild animals are technically the property of the state, but the law is that  that the state doesn’t have any actual control over deer or other wild animals.  (This the opposite of the rules regarding domestic animals, like cattle, sheep and horses, where the animal’s owners can be sued for failing to control their animals.)

But the best way to deal with deer hazards is just to avoid having accidents in the first place.  Driving carefully in areas where deer are common is a good idea, as is using high beams if there is no oncoming traffic. That said, it’s always helpful to properly warn motorists about deer on your roads to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.  SmartSign carries a full line of high-quality deer crossing signs, at the lowest prices.

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