According to the Great Falls Tribune article “Oh Deer! Montana motorists involved in 17,000 animal collisions,” national reports and statistics show that Montana is the second-leading state in the country for wildlife-vehicle collisions. These accidents are not only dangerous to the animals being hit, but they can also have fatal consequences for motorists. If you were involved in an accident with a deer, or other form of wildlife, you may be entitled to file an insurance and/or legal claim.
Get the Facts: Deer-Vehicle Collisions in Montana
Data from State Farm Insurance Co. shows that deer are the most common form of wildlife to be involved in motor vehicle accidents; after all, they do have a reputation for dashing out into the road from seemingly nowhere. The Great Falls Tribune highlights that, for the past two years, more than 75% of insurance claims relating to animal-vehicle crashes involved deer. As a scenic region brimming with wildlife, Montana’s contribution to these statistics amounted to more than 17,000 claims for one year.
“In a state that has more than 806,000 licensed drivers, 1 in every 47 drivers have a chance of colliding with an animal while driving,” the State Farm Insurance Co. report read.
Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirmed that collisions with deer can be fatal for motorists, as reported by the Great Falls Tribune. In the United States alone, these collisions kill approximately 200 people every year.
Since November is the peak season for deer-involved motor vehicle collisions, primarily due to the fact that many state roads have been built over the deer’s natural habitat, motorists should take extra precaution when driving. With deer migration season taking place between October and December, large numbers of deer are on the move, creating the perfect storm for deer-vehicle collisions.
Montana Road Law
Montana Code § 61-8-328 mandates that all vehicles “must be operated as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and may not be moved from the lane until the operator has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.” This can cause many issues for a driver faced with a deer suddenly jumping out into the pathway of their vehicle, especially when attempting to file a claim with an insurance company.
Navigating the Aftermath of a Crash
In the event that you do hit a deer, following these steps can help keep you safe and strengthen your claim:
- Ensure the safety of yourself and any passengers, making note of any injuries.
- Move your vehicle to a safe location, if possible.
- Turn on your hazard lights so you are visible to other drivers on the road. This is particularly important for collisions happening at night.
- Do not try to move the animal off the road. The deer could still be alive, and hurt/scared animals may turn aggressive. Even if the deer is dead, they can carry harmful diseases.
- Call the police to report the accident. You may be required to fill out an official report if any property damage occurred or if any injuries were sustained. These reports might serve as integral evidence for your insurance and legal claim.
- Make sure to document the accident with photos of the animal, the road, your vehicle, and any injuries.
- If you were injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Waiting to see a doctor in the hopes that your injury will get better on its own can be detrimental to your health, and the insurance company may try to minimize your injuries using the gap between the date of the accident and the date of treatment.
- Promptly file a claim with your insurance company and contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options. The sooner you begin, the stronger your claim’s foundation will be.
In preparation for deer migration season, it is recommended to ensure that your insurance policy covers wildlife-vehicle crashes. Discovering that your policy does not cover this type of accident after it happens can come as a terrible surprise, as it can render you ineligible for a claim.
What If My Claim Is Denied?
It is no secret that insurance companies can be difficult to work with. Insurance agents are skilled professionals trained to minimize claims via countless deductions, sometimes even denying claims entirely to save money. This can cause great trouble for injured individuals whose only means of obtaining medical care is through an insurance payout. Fortunately, a lawyer can help you navigate the insurance claims process and protect you from being taken advantage of.
At Hoyt & Blewett PLLC, as well our attorneys understand that people have insurance for a reason: to use it. Backed by more than a century of collective experience, we are passionate about fighting for injured motorists against large insurance companies that refuse to provide them with the coverage they paid for. Our success in handling accident claims has earned us recognition from Lawdragon, the Inner Circle of Advocates, Best Lawyers®, and other national legal organizations. If you were severely injured in a wildlife-vehicle accident, our lawyers want to help.
Contact Hoyt & Blewett PLLC online or call us at (406) 233-1302 today.