You’ve Collided With An Animal On The Road. What Do You Do Next?

A deer crossing the road in front of a moving car. Selective focus on the deer.n

Animals typically stay away from busy roadways, but there are times during the day, especially at dawn and dusk, where they are more active. They will wander across roads and even dart out before a driver has time to react.

Gene Myles, agency manager at Allstate Canada in Sudbury, has unfortunately seen a lot of situations, and processed a lot of claims, where motorists have hit an animal.

He has even seen the truly dangerous incidents of moose or deer colliding with a vehicle and the animal gets thrust through the car’s windshield.

Collisions with moose, deer and even bears are more common in Northern Ontario and rural areas. Urban drivers are more likely to encounter smaller wildlife such as raccoons or pets such as dogs who have run off.

“No one wants to think about hitting someone’s pet,” Myles says. “That’s a terrible feeling. So, the more aware you are of your surroundings as the operator of a vehicle [the better]. Being a cautious, safe driver goes a long way to avoiding these situations.”

Make sure you have the right insurance coverage in place

It’s important that drivers have both collision and comprehensive coverage on their vehicle for protection from two scenarios from an insurance standpoint, Myles says.

If an animal is in motion when it’s struck, it’s considered a comprehensive claim. If the animal has already been hit and is deceased, and then you hit it, that falls under a collision claim.

Dragan Marunic, an auto collision technician at Custom Luxury & Exotic Collision Service in Toronto, has seen a lot of these types of accidents in his work.

“Being a shop in the city of Toronto, we find that smaller animals such as racoons seem to be the unfortunate victims of vehicular incidents,” he says. “Racoons can cause enormous damage to the newer vehicles especially. Some of those guys are pretty large in these parts. Damage to plastic bumpers, spoilers and grilles meshed with parking and lane detection sensors can add up very quickly.”

With larger animals, the outcome becomes much more dangerous for the driver and passengers of the vehicle, Marunic says.

“We have seen newer vehicles written off due to these types of collisions,” he adds. “Frontal impacts are most common; however side impacts do occur. We’ve had instances where the structural components/frames of the vehicles are compromised. ‘A’ pillars [vertical supports on a vehicle] usually get bent from the impact as well as radiator supports. Windshield damage is very common, which makes one hope that they have a high-quality factory or comparable windshield properly installed. It will definitely be worth the few extra bucks spent on the tested laminated glass.”

It’s best to try to avoid the situation altogether, Myles adds. Be more aware when driving during those dawn and dusk times. In the winter, animals move around a lot more to get food. If you are travelling and see one deer, scan around because there likely are others close by.

Animals are unpredictable – if you see one it could bolt in any direction. If you see the animal ahead of time, take precautions by slowing down.

What to do if it happens to you

The Good Hands Advice team has put together a list of tips to consider if you find yourself in the situation of striking an animal:

  • Pull over to a safe location. Make sure no one in the car is injured. Call 911 or the RCMP to report the collision. If you’re in Quebec, you have to report collisions with certain animals to wildlife protection officers. Safely move away from oncoming vehicles. And take some time to clear your head.
  • Make sure the animal is illuminated in your headlights and your hazard lights are on.
  • “Remain in your vehicle, if you’re on the side of a highway,” says Marunic. “I personally have seen an animal get hit and become disoriented. But when people tried to approach it to help, it went back into traffic and got hit again as a result.”
  • If a wild animal is still present at the scene, do not approach it. If the animal is hurt or scared, it can be very dangerous and highly unpredictable. “I would let the authorities handle that,” Myles says.
  • Call a tow truck and have your vehicle taken to a safe area where it can be inspected for damages.
  • Call your insurer and start the claims process. Your insurer will get you to a car rental company.
  • With domestic animals, ensure that the accident scene is safe for the animal and animal handlers to prevent further trauma, says Hannah Sotropa, assistant manager of communications at the Toronto Humane Society.
    • “For felines, place a blanket or large towel over them for ease of picking them up. For canines, it is important to muzzle before handling, as animals who are frightened or in pain, may bite. Smaller animals should be placed in a cardboard box for transport.
    • “For larger animals, where a spinal injury might be suspected, they can be tied to a piece of stiff cardboard or a board. Never force the animal to lie down as they may have trouble breathing when on their side. For a fractured limb, a splint can be created using a rolled newspaper or magazine. For wounds that are actively bleeding, apply and hold direct pressure using a towel or sheet and do not remove the cloth.”
  • If it’s a domestic animal, get in touch with the owner if possible. Also, talk to your insurance agent about possible liability issues – on your part or the part of the owner – if you injure or kill a domesticated pet with your car.

Ideally, you never find yourself in the situation where you have struck a car with your vehicle. But, being aware of the possibility allows you to be on the alert. And knowing the steps to take if it does happen to protect yourself, your passengers and four-legged creatures who might be trying to share the road with you – as well as making sure you have appropriate coverage to deal with damages to your vehicle – will go a long way to providing greater peace of mind.

This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as legal or insurance advice.