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Deer-car collisions: What will your insurance cover?

10/12/2016 10:09:24 AM

For Immediate Release:

SAINT PAUL – It’s that time of year again when deer are on the move, leaping across streets and highways and sometimes crashing into car and truck traffic. The Minnesota Department of Commerce urges consumers to review their auto insurance policies to ensure they have the right coverage in case of a collision. 

There were 2,141 reported vehicle-deer collisions in Minnesota last year alone, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. State Farm says Minnesota ranks seventh nationally for deer collisions, with a Minnesota driver having a 1-in-80 chance of hitting a deer this year.

“It is important that Minnesotans check their coverage,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, whose agency regulates insurance companies. “If you hit a deer or other animal and don’t have the proper insurance, you could face a large repair bill or, worse, a totaled vehicle with no coverage.”

Rothman said that drivers need to know that standard collision insurance typically will not cover deer or other animal-vehicle collisions. However, your collision policy will usually cover vehicle damage if you swerved to miss a deer and hit a tree instead. That’s because collision auto insurance covers damage to your vehicle caused by contact with another vehicle or object – except living objects like deer.

For damage caused by a direct hit with a deer or other animal, you need comprehensive coverage. In general, comprehensive insurance pays for damages caused by random or unpredictable events outside human control, covering a range of incidents such as hail, theft, falling objects and animal collisions.

Because comprehensive coverage is not required in Minnesota, don’t assume you already have it. Check your policy or call your agent to confirm what coverage you have.

Deer collisions can be very costly for Minnesota drivers. According to State Farm, the national average cost per claim is nearly $4,000.

In addition to being expensive, these accidents can be deadly. In 2015, six Minnesotans died and 345 were injured from accidents involving deer.

The Commerce Department asks drivers to take proper precautions and be aware of the increased risk of hitting a deer during the fall months when these animals are most active.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a deer-vehicle crash, as well as the resulting damage and insurance claim:

  • Always fasten your seat belts, drive at safe speeds and stay sober.
  • Drive with extra care at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active.
  • Stay focused on the road, scanning for hazards, and avoid distractions like eating or using electronic devices while driving, which might cause you to miss seeing an animal.
  • Keep your headlights in good working condition and use your high beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic. 
  • If you see a deer near the side of the road, slow down and blow your horn or try flashing your headlights to scare it away.
  • If you see a deer in front of you, don’t swerve. Brake firmly, stay in your lane and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop. It is better to hit the deer than to swerve and risk rolling over, hitting a tree or colliding with oncoming traffic.
  • If you hit a deer but it is still alive, keep your distance. A hurt deer could injure you. Call 911 to report the incident. 

Commerce is here to help 

If you have a question about your auto insurance, contact the Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota). 

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us

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