There were over 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims every year in the United States between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, according to State Farm. That means one in 116 drivers will hit a deer, elk, moose, caribou or another animal this year. While certain states like West Virginia, Montana and Pennsylvania have a higher density of wildlife than others, it can happen to you, too, even if you live in a city.

You can prepare for this situation in two ways:

Different coverages for different situations

The two auto coverages that relate to animal collisions are collision and comprehensive. While collision
seems like a no-brainer, comprehensive is the one you need the most.

Here is how each coverage would be triggered:

Since both of these coverages are optional in most states, consider adding them to your policy if you haven’t done so already. Check with your insurance professional to make sure your policy covers animal collisions.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports the average claim for animal collisions during peak season is $4,600. Given the average deductible for comprehensive insurance is $500, you could receive more than $4,000 to repair your vehicle.

Driver and passenger injuries can be covered by your personal injury protection (PIP), medical payments coverage (MedPay) or regular health care, depending on which state you live in and what policy you have. Several states have made PIP coverage mandatory and certain health care policies don’t cover injuries sustained in car accidents.

Have your insurance professional advise you on the best coverage for you and your family to avoid any major out-of-pocket expenses.

What to do before and during the accident

Prepare for an animal collision as you would for any unforeseen road-related event. Pack an emergency first aid kit with flares, a flashlight, roadside reflectors, blankets and a small supply of food and water. Make sure your hazards and headlights work and that your tires and brakes are in good shape.

Deer and other animals are most active at night, including dusk and dawn. Be mindful of road conditions and respect the speed limit to ensure you have enough time to brake. Keep an eye out for animal crossing signs and scan the road ahead.

If you can’t avoid a collision, don’t brake unnecessarily or swerve before assessing where other drivers are, as you don’t want to make a bad situation worse. Warn everyone in the vehicle to brace for impact, then assess the damage.

What to do after the accident

Pull over to a safe area, away from traffic. Turn off the engine. Put on your hazards.

Are you injured? Are your passengers? Have everyone exit the vehicle if they can move. Check their condition and tend to any wounds. If someone is severely injured, do not attempt to move them. Accidents can cause shock. Check vital signs, keep everyone calm and shielded from the cold. Use your blankets.

Call 911 and set up flares around the vehicle and animal to prevent other collisions. Once you’ve covered the bases, wait for the police and first responders to arrive at the scene, then fill out a police report.

Call your insurance company to file your claim. If your car needs to be towed, they will tell you how to proceed at no cost to you. It’s part of your comprehensive coverage and is also available if you have roadside assistance.

If the animal is injured, keep away for your own safety and let the 911 dispatcher know.

Call your insurance professional to update your coverage or to ask any questions you may have about auto insurance and animal collisions.

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