What Happens If I Hit a Deer?
It might seem as if a deer lurks behind every tree. That perception is not far off, as British Columbia is home to approximately 250,000 coastal black-tailed deer, 190,000 mule deer, and 65,000 white-tailed deer. Each year, roughly four people die, and 380 people are hurt in deer and vehicle collisions. Whether or not ICBC insurance covers property damage to your automobile or there are limits to your personal injury protection depends on the circumstances behind the crash. This holds true when hitting any large, wild animal, such as a moose or bear.
Even if the driver and passengers escape unscathed after striking a deer, property damage to the vehicle may prove substantial. If you carry comprehensive insurance, the ICBC should make the repairs or replace your car, depending on the extent of the damage. If you did not purchase such coverage, then much depends on who is at fault for the accident.
Part 7 Benefits
Fault also pertains to personal injuries. When cars and deer collide, recovery for personal injuries under the ICBC is limited to Part 7 benefits if the accident is the fault of the driver, the animal, or no one. These benefits are also known as no-fault coverage. Those considered insured under ICBC regulations are eligible for Part 7 benefits, and this includes:
- Motor vehicle owners
- Residents with a British Columbia driver’s license
- Passengers in a vehicle registered in the province
Unfortunately, when serious injuries are sustained, Part 7 benefits may not pay all medical expenses. Part 7 pays up to 75 percent of lost wages, for a weekly maximum of $740.
At-Fault or Partly At-Fault
There are situations where another party is at fault or partially responsible. For example, if you are an occupant of the vehicle and the driver is not obeying the rules of the road – such as speeding or driving while distracted – when the collision occurs, you might file a personal injury lawsuit against that person. If your vehicle did not hit the animal per se, but another driver was speeding or otherwise driving improperly and struck it, and the impact caused that car to hit you, filing a tort claim is a possibility.
Less frequently, the government agency under whose jurisdiction the roadway falls is held accountable. That may involve failure to post signage warning the public of deer in the area or not taking measures to prevent large animals from going onto the road. Keep in mind that the majority of such claims are dismissed, but there are always exceptions.
Deer often seem to appear out of nowhere, but there are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of hitting them. Since deer are nocturnal, take extra care when driving at night or in the early morning hours. On dimly lit thoroughfares, use your high beams when it is dark. Deer generally travel in groups, so if you spot one deer, realize there are likely quite a few others behind it.
Local or provincial governments should put up deer crossing signs at the most hazardous areas, so if you see such a posting, pay attention. Fall is the rutting season for most deer species, so a doe running across a road may well have a buck in hot pursuit.
Most critically, obey the speed limit and avoid distractions. Deer are notoriously fast, and travelling even just a few miles above the limit increases your ability to brake in time and avoid the animal. Distractions are not limited to cellphone use. Keep your eyes on the road at all times and do not consume food or beverages while driving or anything else that might take up your attention.
No one wants to see an animal suffer. If you do hit a deer, and the animal does not die instantly, call the local police department or a British Columbia conservation officer. If the animal is lying by the side of the road, an officer will put it down by shooting it. However, if the deer is injured and staggers onto private property, under the law, it becomes that homeowner’s responsibility.
Contact a Vancouver ICBC lawyer
If you or someone you know suffered serious injuries resulting from a deer/vehicle collision, an ICBC lawyer at Preszler Injury Law can explain your options and let you know whether you have a potential personal injury lawsuit. Contact us online or call 24/7 to arrange a free consultation. We can also advise on ways to maximize your ICBC benefits.