Insurance policies may not cover accidents with deer

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COLUMBIA - Fall is prime mating season for deer in Mid-Missouri. The increased frequency in deer mating also means an increase in encounters with drivers.

Missouri drivers need to be aware of premiums in their insurance policies that might not be returned in the event of an accident involving a deer.

House Bill 1022 went into affect on August 28, and the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration issued a statement Wednesday reminding Missourians that allows insurers the option to refuse to return premiums to policyholders as a result of not at fault accidents, such as those involving deer.

Many drivers are familiar with collision and liability auto coverage, but neither of those policies will cover an accident involving a deer, or any other animal. Optional comprehensive coverage does cover deer strikes but will cost drivers more money.

"A lot of people think that if they hit a deer that it's covered under their collision part of their insurance," State Farm Spokesperson Jim Camoriano said. "But, it's actually under their comprehensive, so other than collision. So it's a misnomer, a lot of people think that, but you want to make sure you have comprehensive coverage for that type of peril."

Damage from a deer strike can create a sizable financial burden for those who don't have optional comprehensive coverage.

"A little over $4,000 per claim is what we're seeing on a national average," Camoriano said.

The National Highway Safety Administration estimated that damage caused by deer results in over $1 billion in annual insured losses.

Last year, a deer strike occurred nearly every 2.5 hours in Missouri and resulted in injuries of 374 motorists.

According to State Farm claims data, Missouri drivers are 3 percent more likely to collide with deer in the next 12 months than they were last year. Auto body shops have already seen an increase in deer-damaged cars.

"This week only, we've had seven tow-ins, and I feel certain about five of those at least are from deer," Central Missouri Auto Body Owner Carol Miller said.