W.Va. Auto Insurers See Fewer Losses on Deer-Vehicle Collisions

A new report from West Virginia’s Offices of the Insurance Commissioner says that auto insurers in the state spent $5.1 million less last year on deer-vehicle crash claims compared with 2009. In 2009, they paid out $57.2 million on such claims.

According to an annual analysis from State Farm, West Virginians have been the most likely to file a deer-car collision claim for each of the past five years, with their odds of hitting a deer and filing a claim most recently coming in at 1 in 53.

WV Deer-Vehicle Insurance ClaimsThat makes drivers in the state about 75 percent more likely to file such a claim when compared with the national average.

While the annual number of West Virginia auto insurance claims for vehicle-deer accidents has fluctuated widely since 2002–when regulators first started issuing these reports–the cost of each individual claim has steadily risen.

The total number of claims was at its highest in 2002, when there were more than 28,000. Last year, there were only about 21,400.

But the average payout for each claim has increased by about 50 percent during that period, from $1,626 in 2002 to $2,432 last year.

These crashes have had a significant impact on the industry. Deer-car crash claims accounted for about 20 percent of all physical damage insurance losses last year and more than 7 percent of the total personal auto coverage costs, according to regulators.

Data Doesn’t Give Full Picture of Deer-Vehicle Crashes

While the report quantifies part of the problem, many of the costs and accidents are not included in the data.

That’s because it only considers crashes that led to the motorists’ filing claims under the comprehensive portion of their policies–the only one that covers collisions with animals–and only the amounts insurers paid out for the claims.

Some motorists must buy comprehensive coverage as a condition of the loans they use to purchase a vehicle, but other than that, it’s an optional type of protection. So many other crashes occurred last year that are not reflected in the data, since you can’t file a comprehensive claim if you don’t have that type of protection.

Deer in fieldData are absent on drivers who swerve to avoid deer and collide with another car or other object, since that would fall under collision coverage, not comprehensive. And hospital bills paid out through medical payments coverage are also missing from the numbers.

Also, the data do not totally reflect the cost to consumers, who have to pay deductibles on collision and comprehensive claims before coverage kicks in and who would have to shoulder the entire burden of repair costs if they skimped on those coverage types.

Finally, the final numbers published in the study are projections based on data collected from insurers that account for two-thirds of the state’s auto policies.

Report Comes at a Time when Deer-Car Collisions Spike

According to regulators, deer-vehicle crashes occur most frequently during deer’s mating season, which is October, November and December.

The authors of the report cite Midwest Deer Crash Coalition statistics saying that the times of day when these accidents most often happen are between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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