Is it Illegal to Hit a Deer and Drive Off?

January 31, 2024by Cassandra Nguy

In most cases, it is not illegal to hit a deer and drive off if there was no vehicle damage or injuries. Some states like Florida require you to report any accident involving $500 or more in damages, even deer collisions. In some rare cases, hitting a deer and failing to report extreme injuries may result in animal cruelty charges.

How to Report a Deer Collision

After moving your vehicle to a safe location, the first thing to do when reporting a deer collision is to call 911. Going outside with a wounded deer can be dangerous, so stay in your vehicle. Only leave if there are signs of smoke or the car is in an insecure area.

Approaching a wounded deer may cause it to lash out with its hind legs. Even touching the deer may result in its ticks traveling to you, transferring diseases like Lyme disease.

Report the accident and let the caller know if anyone was hurt. In case the deer is blocking the road, request for roadside assistance. If you need help, you can have authorities assist you in filling out an official report to use for your insurance claim.

Can I Leave The Scene Before Authorities Arrive?

It’s better to stay on the scene before authorities arrive. The officer can help you arrange the evidence needed to file a claim with your insurance company after the accident.

Authorities also need further information from you to properly dispose of the deer carcass. The police officer may require a report to be filed in your state, so stay until everything is in order.

What to Do After Hitting a Deer

According to State Farm, over 1.8 million animal collision claims were filed between July 2022 through June 2023. The most that occurred were deer accidents, reaching its peak in October-December months due to the deer’s breeding season. If you hit a deer, follow these precautions to ensure your safety while alerting the right authorities:

  1. If your vehicle was damaged or someone was injured, move your car to a safe location and contact the authorities.
  2. Make sure to stay in your vehicle to prevent further risk of injury.
  3. Once the police arrive and they permit you to leave your car, you may document the scene. Take pictures of your damaged car and your location. Ask for assistance with an official police report to use for your insurance claim.
  4. If your vehicle is safe to drive, you may leave. If your car cannot drive properly, call for a tow truck.
  5. File a claim with your insurance and provide your official police report. Send all pictures and videos taken. Depending on your insurance coverage, they will reach out to you for the following steps to take.
  6. Don’t assume your car is in stable condition. Loose parts or hidden areas may break and be a threat later. Immediately get your car checked while scheduling your doctor’s appointment. You never know if your body could be internally damaged without you knowing.

Can I Leave the Carcass Behind?

Even if you were not injured or there was no damage to your vehicle, it’s in your best interest to contact the authorities and let them know about the incident. You can contact the authorities if the deer carcass is away from oncoming traffic. The police will come to inspect and remove the carcass.

If the deer is blocking the road, put on your hazard lights and move your vehicle in front of the road. Once the police arrive, they can take care of the carcass.

Is it Illegal to Take the Deer Carcass?

It depends on the state you’re in. Some states allow you to keep a deer’s carcass by following specific guidelines. Other states have no restrictions, or it is illegal to do so unless you have a hunting permit.

For example, in Pennsylvania, you must report within 24 hours to the state Game Commission to keep the carcass. West Virginia requires you to report within 12 hours for collection. South Dakota requires you to report with proper notification, and you must ask for authorized permission to keep the animal.

States that require you to have a hunting permit or a tag for big game hunts:

  • Arizona
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • New Jersey
  • Utah
  • Vermont

States with no restrictions in taking deer carcasses include:

  • Arkansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Washington

Contact a legal advisor to learn more about roadkill laws in your state. If you have any legal questions about your case, find an attorney to guide you through the process.

How to Avoid Deer Collisions

To avoid a deer collision, here are some guidelines to follow when driving through the wilderness:

  • Be aware of deer season between October and December.
  • Drive slower during evenings, as well as before and after a sunrise. These times are the riskiest times for a deer’s appearance. Turn on your high beams for better visibility. 
  • Stay attentive on the road, and look for deer road signs (yellow diamond with deer image) showing heavy deer traffic.  
  • Deers usually follow in packs. Slow down and honk your horn if you see deer nearby to scare them off. Do not rely on other instruments like a whistle to scare deer off. Studies show they don’t work, but using your horn is more effective.  
  • If you see a deer on your path, brake firmly, and DO NOT change lanes. Stay in your lane, as most accidents happen when swerving to the other lane and hitting oncoming cars due to loss of control.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stated about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur in the U.S. every year. There were roughly 150 deaths and over $1 billion in vehicle damages. And the average claim for these deer collisions is almost $4,000.

What to Do if Your Vehicle is Damaged

Get your car fixed or checked out to avoid future car problems when getting into a deer collision. If you have comprehensive insurance, your policy may cover your vehicle damages.

Does Insurance Cover Deer Collisions

Insurance covers deer collisions as long as you have comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive insurance is an optional coverage that protects your damaged vehicle from non-collision occurrences outside your control.

Contact your insurance company to see if you have comprehensive insurance to cover your damages.

What if Multiple Vehicles Were Involved in Hitting the Deer?

You will still report to the police for any injuries or vehicle damages sustained, even if multiple vehicles were involved in hitting a deer.

Follow the steps to document and contact your insurance provider. Ask for the other drivers’ information (driver’s license, insurance, etc.) to let your insurance know you weren’t the only one involved in the accident. Your insurance will gather each driver’s info and determine the next steps after investigating the incident.

Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at linkedin.com

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