It really sucks to be driving on the road and to suddenly strike an innocent animal. Be it a deer, dog, cat, moose, mountain lion, turkey, or any animal for that matter; nobody likes to see a cute little creature suffer at the hand of their vehicle. Unfortunately, sometimes these accidents are inevitable. If you are driving along the highway at 60 miles per hour and a deer suddenly jumps out in front of you, you don’t really have a choice but to hit it head on.
Aside from watching the animal suffer, your vehicle will also sustain some damages. Be it a slight scratch caused by a seagull or a indentation that totals your engine from a grizzly bear, it’s most likely that your car will need some repairs. But who will pay for these damages? After all, you can’t really place the blame for the accident on either party. You were just driving along minding your own business when Bambi decided to leap into your line of travel. The poor animal didn’t know any better, so obviously the fault can’t be placed upon him (not to mention the fact that most animals do not have liability coverage).
So, all kidding aside, who is to pay for the damages – you or your insurance company?
Most people think that their collision coverage will kick-in in this situation. But it doesn’t. Although you technically “collide” with the animal, collision coverage typically only covers accidents involving two vehicles. In situations where animals are involved, comprehensive coverage is needed.
Comprehensive coverage, sometimes known as other-than-collision (OTC) coverage, provides coverage in cases other than collisions (duh!). Theft, water damage, fire, vandalism, falling trees, and animals are typically things that are covered by a comprehensive policy. This type of coverage is usually recommended for expensive and luxury vehicles, but if you live in an area with lots of natural disasters or lots of animals carelessly roaming the streets, comprehensive coverage might be for you!
If you have comprehensive coverage and happen to hit an animal while driving, your insurance company will pay for the cost of repairs less the amount of your deductible. This means that you will have to first pay the deductible and then your insurance provider will pay for the rest. In the United States, the average deductible for comprehensive coverage is around $500. So, if you are an average American, you will have to pay $500 (no matter what) to repair the damage done by the animal. If the animal caused more than $500 damages, you are in luck. If the damages are less than $500, you probably should not even go through your insurance company. Just bite the bullet and pay for those minimal damages yourself.
If you are worried about reporting an accident caused by an animal to your insurance company, don’t be! Claims that are covered under comprehensive coverage will not count against you when it comes to calculating your insurance rates. In other words, if you hit an animal and need your insurance to pay for repairs, don’t worry! Your insurance rates will not increase due to this.
The Better Business Bureau and the Insurance Information Institute (III) recommend all drivers that they re-read over their policy to make sure they are covered in case they hit an animal on the road. The reason for their recommendations is that accidents involving animals can be expensive! According to the III, the average repair costs from hitting a deer on the road average close to $3000… and over $10,000 if the accident causes injuries to humans in the vehicle. Again, if you live in an area with lots of wildlife (typically rural or wooded areas), you might want to reconsider adding comprehensive coverage to your policy. Just like nobody wants to turn Rudolph into roadkill, they equally don’t want to have to pay for the $6700 damages caused by Rudolph out of their own pocket!
So how do I get coverage for damages caused by animals?
If you want to know if you are covered from animal damages, the fastest way is to call your insurance provider to double check. Another way would be to re-read the fine print on your insurance policy (but, let’s be honest, who actually wants to do that?) If you are sure you are not-covered and would like to add comprehensive coverage, you have a few options.
- Call up your insurance provider and ask about adding comprehensive coverage to your policy. You can expect to pay at least an extra $100 yearly for this insurance (in Texas for example, the average cost of comprehensive insurance in 2008 was $147).
- You can start shopping around for comprehensive coverage (or even full coverage). The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to compare insurance quotes online. There are many sites (such as this one) that allow you to compare coverage rates from many different companies at the same time in order to find the policy that suits you and your budget the best.