You did the right thing… you did not swerve but have hit a deer… now what?
During the next couple of months there will be thousands of deer/car accidents in both rural and suburban Michigan. In fact, statistics suggest that there will be over 50,000 deer/car accidents during the 2020 calendar year. The Michigan State Police report that 80% of these accidents will occur between dawn and dusk, but they are not limited to rural areas. Indeed, for example in the Lansing area alone, Meridian Township had 129 car/deer accidents, and Delta Township had 128 deer/car accidents in 2018. Simply stated, if you drive enough, there is an excellent chance that at some point in time you will be involved in a car/deer accident.
When that happens what should you do?
First, and foremost, if it is still drivable, get your vehicle as far off the traveled portion of the highway as possible. Activate your hazard warning flashers but stay in your vehicle! Getting out of your vehicle places you in a zone of danger that you need to avoid at all costs. The adrenaline will be flowing right after the accident but control it and think safety. Use your cell phone and call 911 which, hopefully, will dispatch a police car to the scene. Regardless, you should receive a police report number even if a police car is not dispatched to the accident. This is important so that you can provide your insurance company with evidence that the accident was a car/deer accident as opposed to a collision claim. Car/deer accidents (or other car/animal accidents) are covered under what is referred to as the comprehensive insurance coverage of your auto policy. Typically, your comprehensive coverage will have a substantially lower deductible than your collision coverage. You will need to check with your insurance agent to determine your “out-of-pocket” costs of repair.
Finally, remember that if you wish to keep the deer you may do so. You will need to advise the responding police officer that you would like a highway deer kill permit. The police officer will then give you a tag to transport the deer. If you take the deer that you have hit without a permit you could be in trouble with law enforcement or the Department of Natural Resources. Keep in mind too that even if you are not a fan of venison there are organizations that would be happy to accept the donation of your deer.
Most importantly, stay safe after your unavoidable car/deer accident.
Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Gary C. Rogers has firsthand experience with car/deer accidents, having been involved in four himself; Gary is recognized as one of the top civil defense attorneys in the area of automobile related cases, and he has co-written Michigan No-Fault Law-The Insurers’ Perspective, a handbook for handling claims under Michigan’s No-Fault Automobile legislation. Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 377-0828.