FREE Case Review (866) 588-0600

Is It Illegal To Hit a Deer and Drive Off?
What Steps To Take

Awards & recognition
C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

A deer collision can be a very stressful event. Unfortunately, deer accidents sometimes can’t be avoided. These collisions can happen year-round, but most deer collisions happen during October and November, as deer are active during their breeding season. 

The main question is, what to do if you’ve been in a deer collision?

During the two decades we’ve been practicing law, Schmidt & Clark lawyers have dealt with countless insurance cases due to a deer-vehicle collision. Today, we’ll explain whether it's illegal to hit a deer and drive off, as well as what you can do if your car has been damaged in a deer collision.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • It’s not illegal to drive off after a deer collision. However, if there’s car damage, you have to report hitting a deer.
  • You should be on high alert when driving, especially during deer breeding time in rural areas.
  • You should react appropriately and take several steps if you hit a deer.

Can I Drive Off When I Hit a Deer?

Shocked man in driving seat Yes, you can drive off when you hit a deer. It’s not illegal to hit a deer and drive off. But, the important thing to note is that this is only true if your vehicle or property is undamaged.

If your vehicle, property, passenger, or driver are injured, it’s illegal to drive off. In this case, you’ll have to contact your insurance provider and the local police, just like you would with a regular accident.

Also, most states require that you notify the local authorities if a deer is badly injured. Leaving a wounded deer in the middle of the road presents a safety hazard for other motorists. 

Although you aren’t legally obligated to report a deer accident if there aren’t injuries or damages, there are several reasons why you should report it:

  • Police will explain the situation — They will make sure you’re taking adequate safety measures.
  • A police report can help with the insurance claim — An official report can make it easier to get insurance.
  • Notify the insurance company — The sooner you notify your insurance provider, the sooner they can process your claim.

What to Do After a Deer Collision?

A deer on the road with cars parked on the side

If a deer accident happens, here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do:

  • Move off the road — Turn on the hazard lights and move out of the traffic to the shoulder of the road. 
  • Help injured passengers — If there are injured passengers, help them without getting out of the vehicle. 
  • Report the accident — Call 911 and let them know there’s a deer on the road. Also, if there’s vehicle damage, you need to fill out a report.
  • Stay inside the vehicle — This is especially important if you aren’t in a rural area. If you walk along the highway, you risk a collision with another vehicle.
  • Don’t approach the deer — Injured deer are unpredictable and can be dangerous. Even if the deer appears dead, don’t approach it, or you risk getting hit by their sharp hooves.
  • Document the accident — Take pictures of the accident scene, injuries, and your vehicle. This can help when dealing with the insurance agent. If any witnesses stop, take their information and statements.

Also, if you want to, you have the right to keep the deer with the correct permit. A police officer can issue permits. However, keep in mind that it’s illegal to sell deer meat in some states.

Related Article: Who Is Responsible if a Car Hits Your Dog?

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer

A deer on the road while a car is passing by

According to the Insurance Information Institute, most deer accidents happen from October to December, and they take place on highways and in suburban areas [1].

“With abundant deer, motorists should be aware of the potential for deer to cross roadways at any time. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur during October and November when deer are active during the breeding phase; however, collisions occur year around. Taking precautions such as driving slower during the evening and nighttime hours and scanning roadsides for deer can help prevent collisions.” State of Wisconsin, Department of Transportation

It’s always good to be extra careful during this period, especially if you live in a deer-populated area. 

Here’s how to avoid hitting a deer:

  • Stay alert — Pay attention to deer road signs, and watch the road and what’s ahead so you’ll have enough time to react if you spot a deer.
  • Use high beams — They are useful to spot animals’ reflective eyes, and you’ll have a larger field of vision.
  • If you see one deer on the side of the road, slow down. There are probably more deer nearby. Honk in short bursts and flash headlights to alert other drivers.
  • Wear your seatbelt — Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of getting injured in animal collisions. 
  • Be extra careful at dawn and dusk as animals are active during these times.
  • Don’t swerve — If you swerve, you risk hitting another driver or causing property damage to someone.
  • Don’t speed up — If you speed up, you risk causing more damage to your vehicle and getting injured.
  • Brake — Don’t brake sharply, especially if you’re going fast. Instead, try to brake slowly. Also, if you hit deer while braking, you’ll have less damage to your car.

What to Do If Your Car is Damaged After A Deer Collision

Woman calling for a help using her phone because of her damaged car

If your car is damaged after a deer collision, first, you should check for leaking fluid, tire damage, and loose parts. In case you determine your car isn’t fit to be driven, get it towed.

If your car is damaged, you should contact your insurance company to get your insurance claims processed. 

Two kinds of coverage can help you get damages in case of a deer collision:

  • Comprehensive coverage — Covers your damages after animal accidents. For this coverage to be valid, your vehicle has to come into contact with a deer. For example, if you swerve and don’t hit an animal but still damage your car, you can’t use comprehensive insurance.
  • Collision coverage — This is full coverage that covers damages such as hit-and-runs, accidents caused by other drivers, or if you swerve to miss an animal and damage your car.

You should notify local authorities of deer accidents, as their report can help you when filing an insurance claim.

Related Articles:

See all the personal injury and accident cases we've taken on.


Why do deer run in front of cars?

Deer run in front of cars because they try to cross roadways. Usually, they want to find food, find their mate, or get back to the spot where they bed down.

What are the odds of hitting a deer with your car?

The odds of hitting a deer with your car are 1 in 116, according to State Farm Insurance [2]. 

Get Help From an Experienced Attorney After Deer Collision 

If you hit an animal with your car, try to stay calm. Even though it’s not obligatory, it’s a good idea to notify the police, as their report can help you when filing an insurance claim.

Try to document the accident and don’t leave your car, or you risk getting hurt by oncoming traffic or the injured deer.

Finally, you should hire a lawyer. Schmidt & Clark lawyers have experience dealing with animal accidents. We can help explain what your next steps should be and help you deal with the insurance company.

Contact us today and get a free case evaluation.