State law offers consumer protection for deer-related crashes

Now through December is the time drivers are most likely to be in a deer-related crash. State Farm Insurance reports Pennsylvania drivers are the third most likely of motorists in any state to have a collision with a deer, having a 1 in 67 chance of such a crash.

The state Department of Transportation reports more than 3,600 deer-related crashes in 2015, resulting in 639 injuries, and sadly, six fatalities. In Centre County last year, PennDOT reported 79 deer-related crashes resulting in 15 injuries. Even if there are no injuries, hitting a deer is costly. State Farm Insurance says the average cost of a deer related collision is just less than $4,000.

Because fall is breeding season for deer, they may be less aware of their surroundings. Remember, deer often travel in groups, so if you see one deer, more are often nearby. Dawn and dusk are peak times of day for deer activity, and with daylight saving time ending Nov. 6, more drivers will be traveling to and from work at these times of day.

I want to remind drivers of an important consumer protection in Pennsylvania law involving deer-related crashes. Crashes involving a deer, or other animal or fowl, are considered not-at-fault accidents, and under our state law, insurance companies cannot add a surcharge to auto insurance premiums for crashes involving deer. Vehicle damage from deer-involved crashes is handled under a driver’s comprehensive coverage, so any deductibles would be what is included under the comprehensive, and not collision, coverage.

Gov. Tom Wolf has made consumer protection the top priority for the Insurance Department. Any consumers who have problems with their auto insurance premiums being surcharged following a deer-involved crash, or any other insurance related issues, can contact the department at www.insurance.pa.gov, or by calling 877-881-6388.

Teresa Miller is Pennsylvania insurance commissioner.