Auto-Deer Collision? Your Auto Insurance May Cover More Than You Think

  
     
September 11, 2008

Drivers beware -- According to State Farm Insurance®, 1 in every 87 Michigan drivers is likely to have a collision with a deer.  With deer migrating and mating season occurring between October and December, the Better Business Bureau and Insurance Information Institute recommend that drivers read their auto insurance policy closely or they could miss out on reimbursements or other benefits they are entitled to receive when it comes to a deer-vehicle collision.

“Drivers spend a lot of money on auto insurance, but too often they don’t review their policy until they need to make a claim after an accident and at that time don’t remember or understand what will be covered,” said Tim Burns, Public Affairs Director for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan. “With Michigan consistently being in the Top 5 States each year for automobile collisions with deer, it’s important for car owners to understand their coverage and deductible, as well as any other options that are included in their insurance policy, so they get their money’s worth.”

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), a non-profit organization, on average, deer-vehicle collisions cost $2,800 per insurance claim; $10,000 if there is injury to the driver or a passenger.  There are about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the U.S., causing more than 150 fatalities and $1.1 billion in property damage.

Only comprehensive coverage reimburses drivers for loss due to contact with animals such as birds or deer. This fact often causes confusion among drivers who are not aware that collision coverage will not cover an auto-deer collision. In addition, most auto insurance policies do not automatically cover the cost of a replacement rental car after an accident.

“Although many states do not require that you purchase comprehensive coverage, your lender may require it until your car loan is paid off,” said Carolyn Gorman, vice president of the I.I.I. “Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $300 deductible.”

Although many drivers have coverage for a replacement rental car, they may not realize it because this optional coverage was added at such a minimal expense, usually just a couple of dollars a month. This coverage provides immediate access to a replacement rental car until repairs are made to their damaged car, or they are authorized by their insurance company to purchase a new car. 

Drivers also should know if they have Gap Coverage. If their car is totaled, drivers with this coverage may not have to continue making payments on the balance owed on the car. Gap coverage pays the difference between the amount the insurer pays for the totaled car and the amount the insured owes on his or her lease or loan. Without this coverage, drivers are responsible for paying the remainder of their lease or loan even when their car is totaled.

The best advice is to be prepared to know what your auto insurance covers and what you should do if your car sustains damages by following these tips:

• Report damage as soon as possible. If your car is not drivable, your agent or claims center may be able to save you time and money by having the car towed directly to the repair facility instead of to a temporary storage facility. In addition, arrangements may be made immediately to provide you with a replacement rental car, if your policy includes this coverage.

• Know what your deductible is and ask about any additional charges before authorizing work. Expect your insurance adjuster, claims representative or repair facility appraiser to review the damage with you and explain the repair process, including the use of original or generic auto parts. Before authorizing repairs, know what your deductible is, as well as any additional charges you will be expected to pay once repairs are complete.

• Ask about warranties on repairs. Ask whether your insurer has a repair facility referral program that offers a written limited or lifetime repair warranty backed both by the repairer and insurer for as long as you own your vehicle.

• Do business only with a reputable company. Obtain insurance from companies, independent brokers or direct marketers that have a proven track record of handling auto insurance claims effectively. 

Before purchasing an insurance policy, check out the company with the Better Business Bureau to review its reliability by calling 248-644-9100 or visiting www.bbb.org.

As part of a nationwide consumer education program, entitled Wiser Drivers Wise Up (www.wiserdrivers.com), the Better Business Bureau and the Insurance Information Institute have teamed up to inform and educate drivers to review their auto insurance policy annually to make sure they have adequate coverage for various types of incidents, including deer-vehicle collisions.

Both the Insurance Information Institute and Better Business Bureau advise drivers to take a few minutes annually to read their policy or talk to their insurance agent to make sure they have the coverage they want and need. Knowing as much as possible about your coverage is the best way to ensure you get your money’s worth. For more details, go to http://www.iii.org/individuals/auto/a/basic/

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About the Insurance Information Institute
The Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) is a non-profit, communications organization supported by the property/casualty insurance industry.

 
About BBB Serving Eastern Michigan
The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan (www.bbb.org) is a non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting TRUST and ethical business practices in the local marketplace. In addition to its recognized dispute resolution services, the Bureau maintains reliability reports on the customer service history of more than 80,000 local businesses and provides consumer education materials on numerous topics. The BBB provides its services free to the public and its service territory stretches across Eastern Michigan from Ann Arbor through Metropolitan Detroit, Lansing, Flint, upward to Alpena, and covers the entire Upper Peninsula of the state.