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Michigan Deer Car Accidents: What to Do if You Hit a Deer

Michigan Deer Car Accidents: What to Do if You Hit a Deer

The wait is over.  State Farm Insurance, which pays out millions in claims every year due to collisions between deer and vehicles, has published its annual list of the states where drivers are most likely to run into deer, elk, moose, or other critters. In 2019, Michigan won the dubious honor of finishing fifth among states for highest risk of animal collisions (West Virginia was far and away the “winner,” with Montana, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota finishing up the top 4 for 2019-2020.) According to the report, the odds of hitting an animal in Michigan this year are even higher with the Great Lakes State predicted to move up to 4th place on the list for 2020-2021.

And this time of year is the most dangerous of all. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), mating season (also known as “rut”) takes place every fall which, along with the onset of hunting season, puts deer across the state. In fact, it’s been said that when Michigan rifle hunters take to the state’s forests starting on opening day November 15th, they comprise the world’s largest standing army. That statement might be an exaggeration,  but the state sold nearly 616,000 deer hunting licenses in 2020, while in contrast, the U.S. Army fields 480,000 active duty troops.

For these reasons, November is statistically the most likely month to have a deer-related collision in Michigan. With all the deer moving through the state’s forests and so many dedicated hunters driving up north, it makes for a perfect storm of deer-car collision catastrophe. Though, with the recent “unnatural” growth in deer population statewide, you can expect to encounter a running buck, doe or fawn just about any time of year these days! In 2019, for instance, more than 55,000 collisions occurred between vehicles and deer in Michigan. With more than 1,900 car-deer collisions, Oakland County topped the list, while Kent County came in a close second at just under 1,700.

Fortunately, only 12 human deaths resulted from all those accidents, eight of which stemmed from motorcycles running into deer (or perhaps vice versa). The greatest number of accidents took place at dawn and again at dusk, with the sunrise hour between 7-8 a.m. determined as the most dangerous time of day.

Last year, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the number of deer-vehicle collisions statewide dropped to around 51,000, as did the number of fatalities (just five). But, with the resumption of more normal travel conditions this year, it’s likely those numbers will rise in 2021.

How to Avoid Running into a Deer in Michigan (or Anywhere Else!)

Deer are unpredictable, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of hitting one with your car. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Watch out for herds. Deer travel in groups, so if you see a single doe, you can be almost certain she’s accompanied by a few friends and perhaps some fawns. Whenever a deer is in sight, be prepared for a few more to emerge from the roadside and be ready to hit the brakes!

Pick a car with a “deer-repellent” color. Hunters wear blaze orange to avoid being accidentally shot by other hunters. That electric neon color is a shade that deer apparently can’t perceive, but that humans see very well. According to experts, deer are somewhat color blind compared to humans, but they do have a great ability to see motion and to distinguish objects in low-light conditions. One color deer can discern is blue, so it may seem that blue cars would be less likely to come into contact with a wayward deer. Some researchers claim the color white is most visible to deer and can act as a repellent, while others say black is less easily seen, which could result in more crashes with dark-colored vehicles.

Another method used by some drivers is to attach a “deer whistle” to their vehicle in hopes the inhumanly high-pitched sound will alert deer to their presence. Again, there is some disagreement with that assertion, Consumer Reports and others debunking the theory.

The best advice of all might be to stay off the road at high-risk times (dusk and dawn) and to be especially attentive when driving from October through December (the highest-risk months).

What If I Do Hit a Deer?

Call your insurance company. Your comprehensive coverage, if you chose to purchase it, will pay for repairs to your vehicle if you hit a deer (after your deductible, of course). Even though a deer-car accident may feel more like a “collision” to many drivers, Michigan’s no-fault insurance coverage considers these types of incidents eligible for comprehensive claims. So, if you have an older car, you could get away with purchasing comprehensive coverage (and save on collision insurance costs) and still be covered if you run into a wayward deer.

In the event your collision causes injury, you’ll be relieved to know that the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) included in your no-fault policy will help cover your medical bills. Of course, your coverage depends on the limits you’ve chosen. As you may recall from our previous post on how to avoid excessive medical bills, we recommend you select unlimited PIP coverage. It may cost a bit more now, but it could save you from financial ruin in the future.

One more thing to know is that if you experience a deer-car collision and passengers are injured or another vehicle is involved, this same no-fault protection applies. However, if the driver of the other vehicle is shown to be at fault, any expenses you incur beyond your insurance coverage limits may be recoverable by filing a lawsuit. Get in touch with us at 855-MIKE-WINS for details on how to proceed.

Finally, there is also a possible silver lining of being involved in an accident with a deer: If you’re into venison, you can apply for a salvage permit through the DNR, which allows you to collect the animal you’ve hit for your personal consumption… and you can at least make up some of the deductible cost by loading your freezer with deer meat.

Should I Call the Police if I Hit a Deer?

The short answer is yes. While not legally required, reporting the accident to police and filing a report will ultimately make your life easier when filing an insurance claim. If a deer scampers toward your vehicle and a crash is inevitable, Michigan State Police recommend the following course of action.

Brake firmly and do NOT swerve. Swerving to avoid collision can result in an even more severe accident. Maintain your grip on the steering wheel and bring your vehicle to a slow, controlled stop.

If your vehicle is drivable, pull off the road as far as possible. Activate your hazard lights and be wary of other vehicles driving through if you decide to get out of your vehicle. Adrenaline will be flowing after the accident, and it’s imperative to remain aware of other, non-four-legged dangers posed by the road.

Get your phone out and call 911. Ideally, this will dispatch a police car to the scene of the accident. Regardless of whether police can respond to the scene, you should receive a police report number that you can provide to your insurance provider as evidence that this was a car-deer accident and not a collision claim. Typically, your comp coverage will have a lower deductible than collision coverage and providing the police report will help keep your costs down.

Enjoy Your Fall Color Tour… but Drive with Care

Besides hunting a 10-point Michigan whitetail buck, there are plenty of other appealing reasons to take to the highways this autumn with trips to enjoy fall colors, visits to local cider mills, and even early holiday shopping trips all providing motivation to hit the roads.  Whatever reason you’re on the road, please drive carefully. And, in the event something unexpected does happen, know that your “deer” friends at Mike Morse Injury Law Firm will be ready to help you. Just give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or get in touch with us here.