You’re driving along a darkened road at night. The radio is playing softly as you tap your fingers on the steering wheel. You’re only a few miles away from home. A deer darts across the road in front of your headlights. You hit the brakes, but it’s too late—the impact rocks the car and you halt to a stop. Now what?
It’s not an easy situation, but you need to know what to do if and when you hit a deer. It happens all across the U.S. a million times a year. Hopefully, the accident doesn’t cause harm to you or any passengers. After you’re sure everyone is okay, then you can tackle the problem of the deer. If you have a car accident checklist in your glove compartment, that is a good place to start.
What to do when you a hit a deer: 5 steps to handling the situation in a smart and safe way
Turn on your hazard lights and move your vehicle to a safe location
You want to make sure you’re safe from oncoming cars in either direction. Turn on your hazard lights and high beams to alert passersby. If possible, try to move your vehicle to the side of the road or away from the traffic lane. It’s best to put your vehicle in reverse and move backwards so you don’t hit the deer again.
Call the police and explain the situation
The most important step is to inform the local police about the incident. It’s their job to respond to accidents, and they will walk you through what to do when you hit a deer. If your car is damaged, they’ll help you secure a safe ride home. They will also take your statement about the incident (a crucial step for your insurance claim) and call an animal rescue group.
Document the accident for your insurance claim (but don’t touch the deer)
It’s always a good idea to take pictures of the car accident while on the scene. It may be helpful to your insurance claim if you have a few pictures to support it. Although you’ll fill out a report with the police officer, it won’t hurt to take the extra step.
However, do not approach the deer at any time. If the animal is still alive, it may thrash its legs at you. Don’t be fooled: deer are powerful animals, and they can harm you when they’re scared.
Check your vehicle before you drive away from the scene
If there is significant damage to your vehicle, it’s wise to have it towed. Of course, if the car is totaled, you won’t have a choice. Ask the police officer to use his flashlight so you can see the damage. Also, check under the vehicle for leaks. If your headlights are intact and there is no danger in driving it home, then you should be fine to leave with the officer’s consent.
Call your insurance agent as soon as possible
Getting the claim process started right away is important. You’ll be closer to attaining coverage for the accident and receive immediate roadside assistance. If your car is too damaged to drive, your insurance agent will have a tow truck pick up the vehicle. The police report and your photographs may take a day to process and send to the insurance company, but it’s never too early to call.
It’s good to know what to do when you hit a deer, but also what NOT to do—like driving away
The worst thing you can do is drive away from an accident. First off, it’s not a humane thing to do. The animal you hit may still be alive and get hit again by another vehicle. Plus, the damage done to your car will not be explained, and your insurance claim may fall through with no documentation. So don’t panic—stay at the scene and follow the steps above.
Article courtesy of Pekin Insurance