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Does my car insurance cover hitting a deer?

November 29, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

You couldn’t avoid a deer accident. But you also can’t sue the deer for damages. So what are you entitled to recover for your injuries? The answer will surprise you

Michigan has a huge deer population, and there are thousands of crashes every year when drivers hit a deer. Deer pop out in front of cars, or drivers swerve to avoid hitting deer and end up hitting another car or a tree instead.

Most of the time it is too late to avoid hitting a deer, as was the case in a recent, bizarre, two-car deer accident outside of Grand Rapids.

Of course, as an auto accident lawyer, I usually get the questions about what happens after a driver has hit a deer. And the one question I get after deer-related car crashes more than any other is this:

Am I covered for my injuries, even though another car wasn’t involved?

Does No Fault cover deer-related crashes?

You might be surprised to know that if you have a Michigan No Fault car insurance policy, then you’re protected if you’re in a deer-related auto accident. The deer won’t pay you pain and suffering compensation for your injuries, but you are still entitled to receive Michigan No Fault insurance benefits from your own No Fault insurance company.

That’s why we call it “No Fault” insurance, because regardless of fault — yours, another driver, the deer, etc. — your own auto No Fault insurance company is required by law to pay you Michigan No Fault insurance benefits.

In addition, if someone is killed in a deer-car accident, No Fault will pay survivor loss benefits if you or your spouse is killed.

What are the No Fault benefits I’m entitled to receive after hitting a deer?

No Fault insurance companies must provide wage loss reimbursement, medical bill coverage, mileage reimbursement and replacement services (chores and help around the house), as part of your Michigan No Fault benefits.

Over my own career as a Michigan car accident lawyer, all of the deer-related catastrophic injury car accident cases I’ve had involve attendant care (in-home nursing service) claims. Attendant care is an important part of your No Fault benefits, and since people are slamming into deer or trees or other cars at high speeds after these types of accidents, unfortunately the resulting injuries tend to be very serious. It is not uncommon for people to require substantial nursing care.

What do I need to do after I’m injured in a deer-related crash?

Just like with any other No Fault benefits claim, such as for personal injuries you sustained from another driver’s negligence, you only have a year to file for benefits. If you don’t apply within a year of the accident, you will not be able to receive those insurance benefits.

If I am killed when my car hits a deer, what will my No Fault insurance provide for my family?

Your surviving family are entitled to No Fault survivors’ loss benefits if you’re killed in a deer-related car crash or any auto accident that caused your death. Your family will receive money comparable to what they would have received from you if you hadn’t been killed in an accident, for three years from the date of the car accident and up to $5,541 for any single 30-day period (as of October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018).

What about damage to my car?

You are covered for repairs to your car — minus your deductible — so long as you have optional comprehensive car insurance coverage. This coverage takes care of damages to your car caused by something other than a collision with another car. Fire, theft, vandalism, hail, flooding and collision with animals such as deer fall under this umbrella.

I strongly recommend having this coverage, along with uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, as it saves a lot of hassle and headache if you’re in an accident. Talk to your insurance agent about your policy to see if you’re properly covered.

How dangerous are deer on Michigan roads when it comes to deer-car accidents?

We are in the last week of Michigan’s 2017 regular-firearm, deer-hunting season, and November historically has the most deer-related auto accidents than any other month of the year.

According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, nearly 47,000 Michigan motorists collided with deer in 2016 — killing 14 and injuring more than 1,200 — and nearly 20% of these crashes happened in November. Further, one-third of all traffic accidents in November 2016 were because a vehicle hit a deer.

November may be the peak for annual deer-related auto accidents, but Michigan isn’t out of the woods when the month ends.

The number of 2016 deer-related crashes plunged by more than half in December, but there are still thousands of accidents (last December reported 4,513), in no small part because the late antlerless firearm deer season begins December 18.

And deer don’t go away during the rest of the year. In fact, half of 2016’s total fatal deer-related auto accidents occurred in the combined summer months of June and August.

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