Hitting a deer may affect car insurance payments

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Oct. 12, 2015, at 6:39 a.m.

Click image for current Maine DOT deer and moose crash info

“Got your deer yet?”

Hunters who have had success in the annual hunt welcome that question. For people who have hit a deer with their vehicles, the result can be expensive and injuries severe.

Car-deer collisions are all too common. In Maine, such accidents happen hundreds, even thousands of times each year.

Hitting a deer or other animal can result in major vehicle damage. Your insurance may pay for all or part of the repairs, depending on your coverage. Maine requires all drivers to have liability insurance; if you’re in an accident with someone, liability covers the damage to that person’s vehicle. Insuring your vehicle against damage can be a bit trickier.

There are two basic types of such insurance: collision and comprehensive. Collision insurance pays for damage to your car as a result of a collision with an object, such as another car or a tree. This is relatively expensive coverage, and it’s not required by law. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle from most other causes: fire, severe weather, including floods, and theft.

Allstate Insurance Co.’s website, allstate.com, offers succinct guidance on the differences between collision and comprehensive insurance coverage. The site notes that some states let you choose whether you want a damage claim paid under collision or comprehensive coverage. It goes on to say that, “since this is not at ‘fault’ type of loss, your insurer is likely to process this through your comprehensive insurance coverage.”

The follow-up question is, what happens to your rates after you file a claim? Because the insurer does not consider a motorist “at fault,” it’s unlikely your rates will go up. We would, however, never say “never.”

We posed the question to Doug Dunbar, spokesman for Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Responsibility, which includes the Bureau of Insurance.

“Some companies will increase the premium at renewal when an accident with an animal has occurred. Some companies won’t increase the premium,” he said. In Maine, one size does not fit all.

The Allstate website offers another key piece of information. To claim a loss under comprehensive coverage, “there must be physical contact with the deer — otherwise it will likely be processed as a collision loss.”

Car-deer accidents increase in autumn. To reduce your chances of hitting a deer, stay alert. Remember that deer often move together; if you see one, another is likely nearby. Use your high beams at night for better visibility, especially along roadsides where deer graze.

If a collision seems unavoidable, don’t swerve; tugging the wheel could head you into oncoming traffic or cause a rollover crash. A slight steer into the hind quarters could lessen chances the animal will crash through the windshield.

Learn more about staying safe around wildlife at the Maine Department of Transportation website, maine.gov/mdot/safety/wildlife.

HANDY BROCHURE FOR EVERY DRIVER – NEW OR EXPERIENCED

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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