Do You Have To File A Police Report If You Hit A Deer In Michigan?
If you have ever driven down a dark road and wondered if you have a chance of hitting a deer, the answer is, “Yes.” Deer often dart into roadways, and they may do so at any time of day. However, nighttime makes it especially precarious for drivers. Deer can run into the road before you see them — and you might not have time to stop before a collision happens.
Your Odds of Striking a Deer With Your Vehicle
State Farm releases an annual analysis covering estimated animal collision insurance claims. The latest report estimates people filed more than 1.9 million insurance claims after colliding with an animal between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
In the United States, the average odds of hitting an animal with your car is one in 115. However, your chances go way up in some states. West Virginia ranks as the state where drivers are most likely to hit an animal — the odds there are a frightening one in 35.
If you are a Michigan driver, your odds aren’t much better. The state ranks fourth in wildlife-vehicle wrecks, and your chance of a collision with an animal is one in 51. (By comparison, Alaska ranks in 46th place and the odds in that state are one in 395.)
To put the odds into perspective, the Michigan State Police reports almost 50,000 deer-vehicle crashes occur annually across the state.
The Most Dangerous Time for Car-Deer Collisions
Deer are on the move during the fall. It is mating season, and they spend the months of October, November and December roaming around in search of a mate. Their behavior becomes erratic, making it difficult to predict where an animal may run next. Autumn also ushers in fewer daylight hours. According to the Michigan State Police, about 80% of car-deer crashes happen between dusk and dawn on two-lane roads.
However, while your chances of hitting a deer increase in the fall, the animals are active year-round. There really isn’t an off-season for car-deer collisions.
Why Deer Don’t Always Run Away From Cars
Drivers may think deer step in front of cars because they have poor vision. However, the opposite is true. Deer have excellent sight, and their peripheral vision is especially acute. Their ability to see well is part of why they collide with cars. Your vehicle’s headlights confuse and disorient the deer because they perceive them as very bright. In its confusion, a deer may run toward a car or stand still instead of running away.
Deer Collisions May Cause Major Damage
An adult white-tailed deer is quite a large animal. A buck may weigh 300 pounds. A deer’s large mass combined with hooves and antlers can factor into a crash, causing serious vehicle damage, breaking windows and injuring passengers.
The speed and point of impact affect the type of damage your car sustains in an animal collision. The faster you travel when you hit a deer, the more likely your car will sustain major damage.
The car’s front end usually takes most of the impact if a deer runs into your path. You may have damage such as:
- Punctured radiator
- Coolant leaks
- Shattered or cracked headlights and fog lights
- Smashed bumpers
- Broken windshield
Injuries to Passengers
While your car can sustain much damage after colliding with a deer, you and your passengers are also at risk. Vehicle-deer crashes cause almost 59,000 injuries to people and, sadly, more than 400 fatalities annually. Motorcyclists are at greater risk than car passengers as they ride in the open.
Common injuries after an accident with a deer include:
- Cuts and abrasions
- Back injuries
How To Avoid a Crash With a Deer
You can decrease your odds of hitting a deer by taking precautions. Be alert for increased deer activity if you are driving at night, in a rural area, or in the fall. Take care to avoid distractions that can pull your attention away from driving.
Watch for road signs indicating deer crossings. If you see these signs, you’re in an area where people encounter deer frequently.
If you see a deer, slow down. Deer are herd animals and travel together. If you spot one, it may be on the move with others. They often walk single-file and may cross the road one at a time.
When a Crash Becomes Inevitable
Sometimes, you can’t avoid an accident with a deer. Bring your car to a controlled halt by holding the steering wheel firmly and braking smoothly. Avoid veering or swerving — doing so can cause a more severe accident. It puts you in danger of hitting other cars or stationary objects like telephone poles.
Motorcycle riders should apply both brakes for maximum effect. If you cannot brake, you can swerve your bike in the opposite direction the deer is traveling and slow down or stop.
What To Do After a Car-Deer Collision
Pull off of the road and turn on your hazard lights. Watch for oncoming cars if you exit your vehicle.
Do not attempt to approach an injured animal. It may jump up suddenly or try to lash out at you, causing you injury.
If you can do so safely, take photos of the accident. Note the following:
- Damage to your vehicle
- Injuries to you or your passengers
- Your surroundings
- Road hazards
- Witness statements, if available
Filing a Police Report Following a Car-Deer Accident
The law in Michigan does not require you to file a police report following a crash with a deer. However, it can be in your best interest to do so.
If a deer runs out in front of your car and hits you, the chances are good that you will sustain some type of damage to your vehicle. Hopefully, the accident is minor, and nothing too serious happens. However, even minor damage to your car’s body, engine or windows can get quite expensive. You may want to file an insurance claim.
Your Insurance Company May Require a Police Report
Your insurance company may need a police report number to start your claim. Obviously, if you don’t call the police, you won’t have a report. That is one reason why calling the police after a car-deer wreck is a good idea.
A report offers proof that you have a car-deer accident claim, not a collision claim. This distinction can potentially save you money. Michigan is a no-fault state and makes car-deer accidents eligible for comprehensive insurance claims. Comprehensive coverage typically has a lower deductible than collision coverage.
If you or your passengers sustain injuries, your no-fault policy can help cover medical expenses via Personal Injury Protection.
If Other Drivers Are Involved
If your accident involves another car, calling the police is important. If the other driver is at fault, you may file a lawsuit for damages beyond your insurance coverage limits.
Calling Mike Morse Law Firm After a Car-Deer Accident
If you are unsure how to proceed after an accident with a deer, call Mike Morse Law Firm. We offer you a free consultation to determine if you have a case. You don’t have to worry about paying anything up front. You only pay if we win your case. We answer your call around the clock, so contact us anytime. It may only take a few minutes to find out how we can help.