Last updated: August 2023

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer & What to Do If You Hit One

As a driver, you can’t always assume what another driver will do. But deer? They’re even more unpredictable! Deer don’t follow traffic rules, and they don’t care about your driving record. One recent study1 estimated roughly 1.5 million insurance claims resulting from deer collisions between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020. Wondering how to avoid hitting a deer and becoming a part of next year’s data? We’ve got you covered! And if you do hit one? Well, we’ll also walk you through what to do if you hit a deer.

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer: Practical Actions You Can Take

  • Use extra caution during peak deer hours. Deer are most likely to move around at sunrise and sunset, especially during their migration and mating season and in areas marked with the reflective yellow diamond deer signs. Try not to put your brain on cruise control when you drive during these times and through these areas. Distracted driving is always dangerous, and you need to be fully attentive so you can react quickly if a deer emerges.
  • Don’t freak out. Apply your brakes firmly and in a controlled manner if a deer is standing in the road. Do not swerve to avoid the animal because you could lose control of your vehicle. You don’t want to dodge the deer just to crash into another car or a tree. This crash could end up being worse for you and your vehicle, and you’d need to be carrying collision coverage to make sure any damage to your car is covered.
  • If you see one deer, slow down! Deer are pack animals, so if you see one deer, there are probably more bushy-tailed friends nearby. Reduce your speed or come to a complete stop (only come to a full stop if you can pull over safely or you’re on a road with little traffic) to make sure the road is clear before proceeding.
  • Honk loudly. If you see deer in your vicinity, a loud honk could scare them away from the roadway. At the very least, they’ll stop in their tracks. Lay on the horn for a couple of seconds and then continue to drive slowly.
  • Stay near the center of the road. If you’re driving on a highway with multiple lanes, stay toward the middle of the road (but still within your lane). This will give you more time to react if a deer steps out onto the roadway.

What to Do If You Hit a Deer: Step-by-Step Instructions

Even if you exercise the utmost caution, you can’t control what wildlife does. If you’re unable to steer clear of an accident with a deer, follow these steps in the aftermath:

  1. Pull over and put your hazard lights on. Try to get your vehicle to a safe, nearby location. If you’re stopping on the shoulder, your hazard lights will allow other motorists to see you and hopefully help a minor accident from becoming a major one.
  2. Stay away from the animal. Even if you’re a massive animal lover, don’t approach an injured deer. They may be confused, frightened, and dangerous.
  3. Call the police and, if necessary, emergency services. You may ask yourself; do you have to report hitting a deer? While it’s not illegal to hit a deer and drive away, a police report can be incredibly valuable if you have comprehensive coverage and go to file a claim for any vehicle damage. It’s also important to alert officials if the deer is in the roadway, potentially endangering other drivers. Call emergency services if you or a passenger has been injured. If the accident is minor and there are no injuries, the police might not report to the scene, making step four even more important.
  4. Photograph any damage. This, along with any police reports filed, will help you when filing an insurance claim for the damages to your vehicle. If the police don’t show up, document as many details as you can claim can be settled as quickly as possible. For example, if you hit a deer and it runs away, be sure to take photos of any hair or blood that’s left behind on your vehicle.
  5. Assess the damage and determine if you need a tow. While you might not be a mechanic, it’s important for you to look closely at the damage to your car. Does it appear to be minor cosmetic damage that won’t stop you from getting to your destination safely? Or, is your windshield shattered, limiting road visibility? If you believe the vehicle’s safety has been compromised in any way, do not drive it. Call a tow company directly, or contact roadside assistance if you purchased roadside coverage.
  6. Contact your insurance agent. With your policy number, police report information, and pictures of the collision in hand, contact your agent to report the accident and file a claim.

Does Car Insurance Cover Animal Damage?

Are you wondering if your car insurance covers damage from a collision with a deer? Well, it depends entirely on what type of coverage you have.

Does Liability Insurance Cover Hitting a Deer?

If you’re only meeting your state’s minimum liability insurance requirements, the answer is, no, you won’t be covered. Liability insurance helps pay for injuries another person suffers or damage to their car/property in an accident you cause. Your liability insurance won’t cover you or your vehicle after an accident you cause or after a run-in with any wildlife.

Is Hitting a Deer Covered by Comprehensive or Collision?

If you have comprehensive coverageyes, you will be covered if you hit a deer with your car. Comprehensive coverage is sometimes called “other than collision coverage,” and it protects you from a number of unpredictable events outside of a typical single-car or multi-car collision. Comprehensive coverage helps protect you financially if your car:

  • Is stolen
  • Is vandalized
  • Is damaged by a natural disaster
  • Hits an animal

Collision coverage wouldn’t come into play if you hit a deer, but if you swerved to avoid the deer and hit a tree, collision coverage would protect you. It will pay to repair or replace your vehicle after a collision, regardless of fault.

How much is your deductible if you hit a deer?

When you purchase comprehensive and collision coverage, you’ll typically have a insurance deductible (an amount you must pay after a covered accident before your coverage kicks in) ranging anywhere from $100 to $1500. The lower your deductible, the higher the premium you have to pay.

If your comprehensive coverage deductible is $500 and you hit a deer, you would be responsible for the first $500 of damage to your car. After that, your insurer would pay for the remaining damage. There is no universal deductible amount.

How does hitting a deer affect insurance?

While hitting a deer can be terrifying, you don’t need to panic that it will definitely cause your insurance rate to skyrocket. Typically, comprehensive claims don’t increase rates as much as a collision claim after crashing into another vehicle or object.

Are you wondering if your insurance has your back for any unpleasant animal encounters? We’d love for you to give us a call or stop by one of our Direct Auto locations to ask any lingering questions. We’ll also give you a free quote for comprehensive coverage.


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