What to Do If You Hit a Deer with Your Car

How to handle an animal emergency in the roadway.

Deer standing on road with car in backgroundShutterstock


Hitting a deer with your vehicle can leave you shaken and unsure of how best to proceed. This type of collision is common. U.S. insurer State Farm said it saw 1.8 million auto insurance claims made from July 2022 to June 2023 involving animal collisions. Deer were cited as the most frequently involved animal.

Simple steps can help you deal with the aftermath of hitting a deer that will help ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.

Do a Safety Check and Document any Damage

Turn on your hazard lights and, if you're able to move your vehicle, pull it to the side of the road or to a safe place off the road. Determine if you and your passengers are OK. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately to get medical assistance.

Assuming everyone is relatively unhurt, walk around the vehicle and inspect it. If it's dark, be sure to keep the vehicle's headlights on and use a flashlight or your mobile phone light to inspect the damage.

Make a note of the time of day and your location and take as many pictures of the car as you can. If you're using a mobile phone, it will most likely embed time and geographic coordinates into the photographs' metadata should you forget this step and need to check again later.

Call Authorities and Clear the Roadway If Possible

Call 911 to report the incident. Tell dispatchers if the deer or any car parts are blocking the road so they'll know what kind of equipment and assistance is needed. If it's safe for you to do so, try to remove any car debris from the road.

Do Not Touch the Deer

Avoid touching or approaching the deer. It can be uncomfortable to see an animal in pain, but you can't predict what an injured deer will do, and it could be dangerous. Sometimes deer will get up and walk away, sometimes they'll make noise, and sometimes the accident is fatal. Whatever the case, keep people away from the animal and allow authorities to handle it.

Call Your Insurance Company and Arrange for a Tow

If your car is not drivable and you have roadside assistance through your insurance policy, you may want to call in the accident and open a claim. The insurer likely will dispatch a tow truck. Otherwise, you can search online for a nearby tow company and possibly summon one.

If you're driving a rental car and using the rental company's insurance, call their roadside assistance number rather than your own.

Stay at the Scene, Even If the Accident Is Minor

You should not leave the scene after hitting a deer even if your car seems to be fine and you don't want to report the incident to your insurance company. Leaving a large, injured animal in or near the roadway could create a hazard for other drivers and subject the deer to further harm. It's best to wait for assistance to arrive before moving along.

Be sure your car is also off the road and that you stay clear of the pavement to avoid being hit by another driver.

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Steve Friess
Steve Friess is a veteran freelance journalist and author based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His career has included breaking the butterfly ballot story during the 2000 presidential election, spending months covering the SARS outbreak in China, and launching two of the earliest hit independent podcasts. He is a regular contributor to several national newspapers and magazines, and his byline has appeared on work reported in 15 countries and all 50 states. His first car was a new 1992 Saturn, but these days he and his husband haul their two toddlers around in a Mercedes GLC 300.