Will My West Virginia Auto Insurance Policy Cover Crashes with Deer?

West Virginia state flagWest Virginia motorists will have car damages covered after a vehicle-deer collision only if they have comprehensive coverage included on their insurance policy. This is the type of coverage that pays for repairs after a crash with an animal, in addition to covering damages caused by severe weather, fire, floods and vandalism. Drivers are not required by law to carry this coverage, but they may be required to do so as a condition of an auto loan.

West Virginians Are Most Likely to Collide with Deer

Residents of the Mountain State have good reason to worry about these incidents. For the past five years, an annual report has ranked the state as having the highest likelihood of a driver hitting a deer and filing a claim. The coverage provider says WV motorists are 75 percent more likely to hit a deer in a given year when compared with the national average.

Looking at data from the Offices of the Insurance Commissioner for deer-vehicle claims and for the number of licensed drivers, about 1 in 50 motorists in the state filed such a claim in 2009.

Neighboring states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia have much higher vehicle-deer collision volumes when compared with West Virginia, but the Mountain State's lower population leaves it with a greater collision-per-driver rate.

In West Virginia, vehicle-deer accidents occur most frequently between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. during the months of October, November and December.

Vehicle-Deer Collisions Cost WV Car Insurance Companies Millions

According to state-collected data, there were approximately 25,600 West Virginia auto insurance claims filed with insurers in the state in 2009 for vehicle-deer collision claims. On average, each of those claims cost $2,236, accounting for upwards of $57 million in insured losses that year. And that doesn't count the thousands of dollars paid by consumers toward deductibles for those claims.

Deer crossing signDeer-vehicle collisions accounted for almost 7 percent of all personal auto insurance costs and about a quarter of the physical damage losses in the state in 2009. But the actual cost inflicted by wildlife on the state coverage industry is actually likely to be a little higher, since the latest numbers from the state Department of Transportation show a significant number of crashes are caused in part by drivers' swerving to avoid animals on the road but never actually hitting them.

According to the most recent state data, about one-third of the cars involved in animal-vehicle crashes are not drivable afterward, and about 4 percent of the incidents result in the vehicle being a total loss.