I hit an animal while driving - what do I do?

14 minute read Published on Nov 4, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

I hit an animal while driving - what do I do?

Driving is a responsibility we take on with an understanding that unexpected incidents can happen on the road. One of the most heart-wrenching experiences for any driver is the unfortunate event of colliding with an animal. Not only can it be traumatic emotionally, but it also poses a slew of legal and practical questions. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s crucial to stay calm, be informed, and know the right steps to take. This guide will walk you through the immediate actions you should take and help you navigate the aftermath of such an accident.

Hitting an animal: the immediate aftermath

Animals can be erratic, making it hard to predict when one might dart into your path as you drive. That’s why it’s essential to be prepared and prioritize your safety above all. As the moments immediately following a collision with an animal can be chaotic and distressing, plan ahead by learning the following safety measures that will help keep yourself and others safe:

Stay calm

It’s natural to feel a mix of shock, guilt, and panic. However, maintaining composure is crucial. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself before taking any action.

Turn on hazard lights

Immediately turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers that there’s an obstruction or issue on the road.

Pull over safely

If possible, and without causing further danger, move your vehicle to a safe location off the roadway. Look for a shoulder, parking lot, or other open space. If you can’t move the vehicle, stay inside to avoid other potential road dangers.

Check for injuries

Before concerning yourself with the state of the animal, ensure you and any passengers are okay. If anyone is injured, call for medical attention immediately.

Approach with caution

If you decide to check on the animal, be very cautious. An injured animal can be unpredictable and dangerous. Do not attempt to move a large animal, like a deer, by yourself. If it’s a domestic animal, like a dog or cat, and it’s safe to do so, try to move it to the side of the road using a blanket or jacket.

Stay alert

Be aware of your surroundings. Other vehicles might not see you, especially if it’s dark or visibility is low. If you have a reflective vest or flashlight, use them. If you have reflective pylons or flares in your trunk, and it’s safe to do so, set them up to help other drivers see you.

Remember, your safety and the safety of others come first. While it’s a distressing situation, it’s essential to make decisions that prioritize the well-being of everyone involved.

Reporting the accident to the proper authorities

Depending on the situation, you might need to call local law enforcement or animal control. If there are no serious injuries, you can report the incident by calling the local non-emergency line or 3-1-1.

In Canada, the legal protocols you must follow after colliding with an animal vary by province or territory. Nevertheless, there are general guidelines for reporting collisions with animals that are commonly applied across the country:

Emergency services

Anytime there are human injuries, irrespective of their severity, it is a legal requirement to report the incident to the authorities. If anyone is severely injured or has suffered a head injury, call 9-1-1 for medical attention immediately.

Large wildlife collisions

If you hit a large animal, such as a deer, moose, or bear, you are generally required to report the car accident to local law enforcement. In some provinces, the police will then liaise with wildlife control or conservation officers to address the situation.

Domestic animals

If the collision involves a pet or livestock, you should contact animal control or the local police. They can assist in locating the owner and ensuring the animal receives proper care. Contacting animal control is especially important if the injured animal is still alive and needs immediate medical care.

Note: make sure to acquire a copy of the police report in case you decide to submit an insurance claim.

Documenting the accident

Once the immediate dangers are addressed, it’s essential to take proactive measures to document the accident and keep your insurance provider in the loop. This ensures any claims or processes that follow are smooth and transparent. Here’s what you need to know:

Photograph the scene

With smartphones being widely accessible, snapping a few pictures of the accident scene is straightforward. Capture the damages to your vehicle, any skid marks, the surrounding area, and any relevant road signs or landmarks. This visual documentation can be invaluable for insurance claims and potential disputes. Consider waiting for authorities to arrive. They can also help with managing traffic, making it safer for you to photograph the damage to your vehicle.

Gather witness information

If there were any witnesses to the accident, approach them and ask for their contact details. Eyewitness accounts can provide an additional perspective and support during claims or potential legal inquiries.

Write a detailed account

While the event is still fresh in your mind, jot down a comprehensive description of what happened—where you were going, the time, road conditions, and the sequence of events leading to the collision. If you have any passengers with you, you can also ask them to write down their own detailed accounts.

Contact your insurance company

Even if the damages seem minor, it’s always advisable to notify your insurance provider about the accident. They can guide you on the next steps, whether it’s filing a claim or directing you to an authorized repair shop.

Also, keep in mind that insurance companies often have a specific window within which you must report a car accident for a claim to be valid. If you’ve had a collision with an animal, don’t delay in notifying your insurance, even if you’re unsure about the extent of the damages or whether you’ll file a claim.

Proactively documenting and communicating with your insurance provider not only aids in potential claims but also gives you peace of mind. By having a clear record of events and understanding your coverage, you’ll navigate the aftermath of an unfortunate incident with greater ease and assurance.

Assessing the damage to your vehicle

Colliding with an animal can lead to varying degrees of damage to your vehicle. From minor scratches to substantial structural harm, it’s crucial to properly assess the extent of the damage and determine the appropriate time to notify your insurance provider. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Initial safety check

Before diving into assessing the damage, ensure your vehicle is in a safe location, away from active traffic. Turn on your hazard lights, especially in low visibility conditions.

External examination

Begin with a visual inspection of the vehicle’s exterior. Look for dents, scratches, broken mirrors, damaged lights, or fluid leaks.

Functional check

After inspecting the outside, it’s crucial to test your vehicle’s basic functions. This includes checking the brakes, lights, headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and steering. Listen for any unusual noises when starting and operating the vehicle.

Check for hidden damages

Some damages aren’t immediately visible. For instance, an impact can potentially harm the vehicle’s alignment or undercarriage. If you suspect internal damage or if the vehicle behaves oddly, it’s best to have a professional assess it.

Document everything

As with the accident scene, photograph all damages to your vehicle, no matter how minor they may seem. This provides a clear record for insurance purposes.

Minor vs. major damages

For small scratches or minimal damages, you might opt to fix them out of pocket, especially if the repair cost is lower than your deductible. However, it’s still a good practice to inform your insurance provider about the incident.

If your vehicle sustains significant damages, or if there’s any doubt about its safety and operability, contact your insurance provider immediately. They will guide you on the next steps, which might include towing the vehicle to a repair shop.

Contact a towing company

Once you’ve assessed the damage to your vehicle, if your vehicle is undrivable, you may need to call a tow truck. Your insurance provider or the local police may have recommendations for you to call. Make sure you find out from the towing company where the vehicle will be towed and how you can retrieve it later. Learn about insurance coverage for towing.

Seek a professional assessment

Even if you believe the damage is minor, getting a professional evaluation is always recommended. A mechanic can provide a detailed estimate of repair costs and identify any issues you might have overlooked.

Understanding your insurance - does it cover animal collisions?

Navigating the intricacies of car insurance can sometimes feel like a maze. When you’ve been in a collision with an animal, one of the primary questions that often arises is, Is this covered by my insurance? The answer isn’t always straightforward, as it depends on the type of coverage you have and the specifics of your policy. Here’s how animal collisions might be covered:

Comprehensive coverage

The most common type of insurance that covers animal collisions is comprehensive coverage. As the name suggests, this kind of coverage is all-encompassing and typically covers damages to your car caused by events out of your control – like natural disasters, theft, vandalism, and, yes, collisions with animals. If you only have liability coverage, which primarily covers damages you cause to others, it generally won’t cover damages from animal collisions.

Deductible considerations

Even with comprehensive, you’ll likely have a deductible to meet. This is the amount you’re responsible for paying out-of-pocket before the insurance takes over. If the damage from the animal collision is minimal and the repair cost is close to or less than your deductible, it might not be worth filing a claim.

Collision coverage

While comprehensive typically covers animal-related damages, if you swerve to avoid hitting an animal and end up crashing into another object, like a tree or another car, that falls under collision coverage.

Rental reimbursement

If your car needs repairs after an animal collision and is not drivable, check if your policy includes rental reimbursement. This coverage can pay for a rental car while yours is in the shop, ensuring you aren’t left stranded.

Specialized coverage

In areas where animal collisions are frequent, some insurance providers might offer specialized coverage options or add-ons tailored to such incidents. It’s worth inquiring if you live or frequently drive in such regions.

How to submit an insurance claim for damage to your vehicle after an animal collision

The aftermath of an accident, especially one involving a wild animal, which, unfortunately, is a common car accident, can be emotionally taxing and disorienting. While no one wishes to be in a situation that necessitates an insurance claim, being prepared and understanding the process can alleviate some of the stress. Here’s how to submit an insurance claim after an animal collision:

As we’ve already covered, the first step is to document the accident and collect any witness statements. You’ll also want to write that detailed account of the accident while it’s still fresh in your mind. All of these photographs and details provide context to your claim.

The next step is to initiate the claim process by calling your insurance company as soon as possible. Most companies have a 24-hour helpline. Inform them about the accident, and they’ll guide you through their specific claim procedure. If your vehicle is not drivable, make sure to ask if your current policy includes rental coverage.

Your insurer will likely provide you with a claim form to fill out. This form will require details about the incident, including how it happened, any injuries, and the extent of damages. Be accurate and detailed in your descriptions. Next, submit the photographs you’ve taken, your written account, and any other relevant documents like the police report or witness statements. This documentation can help substantiate your claim.

Once you’ve submitted your claim, your insurance provider might send an adjuster to assess the damages to your vehicle. This person will determine the cost of repairs and verify the details of the accident. Be available and cooperative during this assessment.

Your insurance provider may have a list of preferred repair shops. If so, consider these recommendations, as the repair process can be more streamlined. You do not have to use a repair shop they’ve recommended. However, if you choose an out-of-network mechanic, your insurer might only cover up to a certain amount, meaning you’d be responsible for any costs beyond that. Make sure to inquire about that first.

Once the adjuster has made their assessment, your insurer will present a settlement offer based on your policy’s terms and the adjuster’s findings. Review this carefully. If you believe the offer isn’t fair, you can discuss it with the company or seek external advice. Upon agreeing to the settlement, the insurance company will initiate the payment process, either covering the repair shop directly or reimbursing you, depending on your policy and arrangement.

While no one wishes to be in a situation that necessitates an insurance claim, being prepared and understanding the process can alleviate some of the stress. Remember always to stay calm, be organized with your documentation, and maintain open communication with your insurance provider. This proactive approach ensures a smoother claim process and a quicker return to normalcy.

How will hitting an animal affect my Ontario car insurance rates?

The impact of an accident on your Ontario car insurance rates largely depends on your insurance company, the specifics of your policy, and the jurisdiction in which you reside. Here’s a general overview of what you can expect:

Type of claim

Hitting an animal is typically covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy rather than the collision portion. Comprehensive coverage is designed for events often considered out of your control, such as natural disasters, theft, vandalism, and collisions with animals.

No-fault incident

Collisions with animals are usually considered no-fault incidents, meaning they are events that are not primarily due to the negligence of the driver. Because of this, such claims may have a lesser impact on your premiums compared to at-fault accidents. Learn more about no-fault insurance.

Frequency of claims

If you file multiple claims in a short period, even if they’re for no-fault incidents, your insurance rates might increase. Insurers could view frequent claims as a sign of increased risk, leading to higher premiums.

Claim-free discounts

If you had a claim-free discount on your policy, filing a claim for an animal collision might remove that discount, leading to higher rates.

While hitting an animal can be traumatic and has potential financial implications, it might not always result in increased Ontario car insurance rates. If you’re concerned about potential rate hikes, it’s advisable to discuss the situation directly with your insurance provider or a local insurance broker.

Prevention tips for driving in animal-prone areas

While accidents can happen, driving cautiously in areas known for frequent animal crossings can greatly reduce the likelihood of collisions. Animals, whether it’s wildlife or livestock, often have common zones and times when they are active. Being aware and prepared can make all the difference. Here are some comprehensive prevention tips to help you avoid animal collisions in animal-prone areas:

Awareness is key

The first step to preventing accidents in animal-heavy regions is being aware that you’re in such an area. Watch for road signs, such as moose crossing or deer warning signs, that indicate animal crossings. These are usually placed in zones known for frequent animal activity. They aren’t just for decoration; they’re vital warnings.

Peak activity times

Many animals, especially large animals like deer, are most active during dawn and dusk. Adjust your driving habits during these times. If possible, try to avoid driving during these peak hours, especially in highly wooded or rural areas.

Use your lights

In low-light conditions, always use your headlights. Not only does this improve your visibility, but it can also help you spot the reflective eyes of animals. If there’s no oncoming traffic, use high beams for better illumination.

Maintain safe speeds

In areas known for animal activity, make sure to drive the speed limit or even reduce your speed. A slower speed gives you more time to spot an animal and react appropriately. It can mean the difference between a near miss and a collision.

Avoid distractions

When driving in regions with potential animal crossings, it’s more crucial than ever to minimize distractions. Put away the phone, keep the radio volume down, and stay alert.

Scan continuously

Regularly scan from one side of the road to the other, especially when driving through wooded areas or open fields. This constant scanning technique increases the chances of spotting an animal before it enters the roadway.

Watch for groups

Many animals, especially deer, tend to move in groups. If you see one animal cross the road, slow down and proceed with caution, as there may be more following.

Honk when necessary

If you spot an animal on or near the roadway and it’s safe to do so, a short burst of your horn can scare it away. However, don’t rely on this; some animals might become confused and not react as expected.

Stay in your lane

If an animal does enter the road in front of you, it’s generally safer to stay in your lane and brake firmly rather than swerve. Swerving can lead to more dangerous situations, like oncoming traffic or running off the road.

Consider animal deterrents

Some drivers swear by animal deterrent devices, such as deer whistles, which can be attached to a vehicle and emit ultrasonic noise. While their effectiveness is debated, some believe they help in preventing animal collisions.

Keep a clean windshield

A clean windshield can improve visibility, especially during dawn and dusk. Ensure your windshield wipers are in good condition, and use your defroster or air conditioner to prevent fogging.

Always wear a seatbelt

While this is a fundamental driving rule, it’s especially crucial in animal-prone areas. If an accident occurs, a seatbelt can significantly reduce the risk of severe injury.

Have an emergency kit

It’s good practice to have an emergency kit in your car, complete with essentials like a flashlight, first aid kit, blanket, and tools. In the event of an accident in a remote area, these tools can be invaluable.

Verify your car insurance coverage with BrokerLink today

In times of unexpected events like hitting wild animals while driving, it’s crucial to have the right insurance coverage to protect yourself and your vehicle. At BrokerLink, we understand that accidents happen, and we’re here to help. Don’t wait until it’s too late—verify your car insurance coverage with BrokerLink so you can drive with confidence, knowing you’re prepared for the unexpected on the road. Your peace of mind is our priority.