It is not unusual to be injured in a car accident caused by hitting a wild animal while driving Indiana roads and highways. Indiana’s Division of Fish & Wildlife says there are more than 14,000 deer-vehicle collisions reported in Indiana every year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says about six people in Indiana die every year from collisions with animals.
After a car accident caused by wildlife, a driver may have questions about who will pay for the damage to his or her car and any medical bills from injuries. That will depend on what auto insurance coverage you carry and other factors, which we’ll discuss below.
At Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC, we know that insurance companies have plenty of room to duck and dodge a car accident claim resulting from hitting a wild animal. If your car has been damaged or you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident caused by wildlife in Indiana, contact us before signing anything presented to you by an insurance company.
How Auto Insurance May Cover an Accident Caused By An Animal
A vast majority of Indiana drivers only have the minimum amount of auto liability insurance required by law. Liability insurance is for damage the policyholder causes others in a car accident. It will not help if you hit a deer or other wildlife.
You will need to have comprehensive car insurance coverage to file a claim after hitting a deer or other wildlife and damaging your vehicle. Comprehensive coverage protects the policyholder from vehicle damage not caused by other motor vehicles. It may help pay to repair or replace your vehicle.
Comprehensive car insurance typically covers damage from random, unpredictable incidents, such as theft, severe weather, fire, vandalism, a rock hitting your windshield — or hitting a deer.
For comprehensive coverage to apply, your vehicle must actually collide with the deer, whether it runs into your vehicle or you strike the animal. If you swerve to avoid hitting a deer and crash into a tree, another vehicle or a fence, you would need collision coverage to help repair damage to your car.
If you have comprehensive coverage, you may remember that it has a catch: the deductible. A deductible is the money the policyholder must pay out of pocket before the insurance policy pays. To make filing a claim worthwhile, you’ll need to consider whether the cost to repair your vehicle damage exceeds the deductible by enough.
If your comprehensive policy has a $1,000 deductible, it will not pay for a claim of $1,000 or less. But for a claim of $1,100, $1,500, $1,800 or more, the insurance company should pay the amount above $1,000, up to the policy’s limit. You would still have to decide whether a claim is worthwhile due to a second catch with insurance policies: a potential rate increase.
It is hard to say whether your premiums will increase after filing a claim for hitting a deer. There are many factors that go into a decision to raise insurance premiums, usually including whether you were at fault and how often you have filed claims. If your rates go up, at least one survey says Indiana auto insurance premium increases after one claim are among the smallest in the nation.
Indiana drivers are not required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage, but it is available and it’s a good idea to have it. If you have been injured in a wildlife accident, you could file a claim for medical expenses if you have personal injury protection. PIP coverage is meant to pay for:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Wage losses up to a defined limit
- Survivor’s benefit in a fatal accident
- Funeral expenses.
A PIP policy would also have a deductible and potentially subject you to a premium increase after filing a claim. Medical Payments Coverage is another optional insurance plan, which would provide medical and funeral expenses for you and/or occupants of your vehicle injured or killed in an accident.
Avoiding Indiana Wildlife Collisions
Here are a few tips to help you avoid getting into an accident with a deer or other wildlife:
- Know peak times for animals. Wild animals are most active at dawn and dusk, but can be active as late as 9 p.m., the Farmers’ Almanac says. Deer are most active during their breeding season, from October to early January. Springtime is when most wildlife families with their young are on the move. The Insurance Institute says that in 2016, motorists died in collisions with animals most frequently during the months of July through September.
- Be aware of habitat. Although deer can be found anywhere these days, slow down in rural areas or near state and national parks, forests, and wildlife preserves, where deer and other animals are more abundant. Give yourself more time to brake if an animal darts into your path. Scan the roadside ahead for animals. If you see a deer standing alongside a roadside, be cautious. It can break and run across the highway at any second. Deer travel in herds and tend to follow one another. If you see one, expect more.
- Never swerve to avoid an animal. Apply the brakes, but do not swerve to avoid an animal in your path. Let the animal move to get out of the way. You are less likely to be badly injured by hitting a deer straight-on than by swerving into an oncoming car or a tree.
- Report hitting a deer. If you hit a deer or other large animal, move your vehicle off the road and turn on your hazard lights. Contact police and request an ambulance if anyone in your vehicle is injured. Do not approach a wounded animal. Let police euthanize it if necessary. Get a copy of the police report or ask how to get one. The report will be necessary for an insurance claim. If you are interested, ask the police officer about a permit to keep the remains of a dead deer.
Contact Our Indiana Car Accident Lawyers About Wildlife Accident Claims
If an insurance company is not paying what you are owed for property damage or personal injury after a car accident caused by a wild animal in Indiana, Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC would like to discuss the situation with you. We are an experienced, caring, and determined team of attorneys. We know that insurance companies often put their own profits ahead of the interests of people with valid accident claims who deserve just settlements. Contact us for a free case review and discussion of how we can help you.