Do you have to report if you hit a deer?
According to auto insurer State Farm, some 1.4 million vehicle and deer collisions occur in the U.S. each year, causing massive property damage, bodily injury and wildlife deaths. While the prevalence of deer in Southern California is waning, these docile creatures pose serious hazards for motorists, especially during the changing seasons when deer migrate to lower elevations that are often more urbanized. A car accident involving a deer or other large animal not only jeopardizes your health and that of the wildlife, it can cost you many thousands of dollars in property damage.
Car accidents with deer – reporting to the police
What are the legal requirements if you hit a deer on the road? Do you have to report the incident to the police, or your insurance carrier? If there are no occupant injuries in the crash, it is up to the discretion of the driver to call 911. If the deer is still alive but badly injured, motorists are asked to call the California Highway Patrol as soon as possible so the animal can be humanely euthanized.
If someone is hurt in the accident, the driver is required to call the police immediately. As for notifying your insurance company after hitting a deer, that depends on whether you intend to pay for the damages out-of-pocket, or make a claim against your policy assuming you have comprehensive coverage. A personal injury lawyer can prove helpful for ensuring the claims process goes smoothly and you are fairly compensated for the property damage. According to recent data from State Farm, the national average for car accident claims involving animal collisions hovers around $4,300.
Even if you purchased comprehensive coverage, an insurance adjuster may dispute your story of hitting a deer, with a view toward denying your claim, or minimizing your payout. This is where having a police report and a competent attorney can back up your allegations and advocate on your behalf.
What to do if you hit a deer while driving
October through December are peak months for car-deer accidents, which are more likely to occur at dawn and dusk when the animals are most active. If you are driving at night, use your high beams whenever possible, and slow down if the area you’re traveling in has wildlife crossing signs. If the unthinkable happens, and a buck darts in front of your vehicle, slow down, then ease off the brakes the moment impact happens. This can help prevent the animal from crashing through your windshield, which can result in devastating injury and death.
If you have hit a deer:
- Stop your car and check for occupant injuries
- Seek medical attention if injuries are serious
- Move your vehicle out of the road if possible
- Put on your hazard lights or place emergency cones around the scene
- Call 911 or the state patrol
- If the deer is still alive, keep your distance
- If the animal appears mortally wounded, call the CHP
- Take photos and/or video of the damage to your vehicle and the accident scene
- Ensure your vehicle is safe to drive, or call a tow truck
- Report the accident to your insurance company
If the collision with the deer caused you or an occupant to suffer personal injuries, speak to your insurance adjuster about your policy coverage. If your provider is being difficult or unclear, contact one of the expert car accident lawyers at Ellis Law for expert guidance.
Preventing deer and car accidents
According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA), deer-related road accidents have increased over the years partly due to the destruction of the animals’ natural habitat. The total cost of these accidents, which result in 200 human deaths each year, tops more than $1 billion in damages.
Traffic safety officials caution not to swerve to avoid hitting a deer, as this can do more harm than good. More damage and injury results from cars that violently swerve, causing them to crash into nearby objects, into oncoming traffic or even flip over. Anecdotal evidence has shown that you should stay in your lane, and slow down as much as possible. Even if this means striking the deer, the odds are better for your personal safety.
If you were an occupant who was harmed in an accident because the driver hit a deer, call Ellis Law to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your situation. We can answer your questions and outline options for legal recourse in the event that negligence was involved. Schedule a free case review at Ellis Law Los Angeles today by calling our toll-free number.