With shorter, cold days and icy roads and highways, your chances of a single-vehicle accident involving a deer or other large animal just went up. Are you covered?
According to the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, a deer-vehicle collision averages $2,800 per insurance claim, $10,000 if there is injury to the driver or a passenger.
Only comprehensive coverage reimburses drivers for loss due to contact with animals, such as birds or deer. And, most auto insurance policies do not automatically cover the cost of a replacement rental car after an accident. However, such coverage can be added at a minimal expense, usually a couple dollars a month.
Consumers should also check to see if their policies include gap coverage, which pays the difference between the amount the insurer pays for a totaled vehicle and the amount the insured owes on his or her lease or loan.
Before you have a run-in with a large animal, the BBB offers the following:
• Report the damage as soon as possible. If your car can not be driven, your agent or claims center may be able to save you time and money by having the car towed directly to the repair facility instead of to a temporary storage facility. Arrangements may be made immediately to provide you with a replacement rental car, but only if your
policy includes this coverage. Although insurance companies don't require a police report, it's advisable to get one should there be questions later.
• Know what your deductible is and ask about any additional charges before authorizing work. Expect your insurance adjuster, claims representative or repair facility appraiser to review the damage with you and explain the repair process, including the use of original or generic auto parts. Before authorizing repairs, know what your deductible is, as well as any additional charges you will be expected to pay once repairs are complete.
• Ask about warranties on repairs. See if your insurer has a repair facility referral program that offers a written limited or lifetime repair warranty, backed both by the repairer and insurer, for as long as you own your vehicle.
• Do business only with a reputable company. Obtain insurance from companies, independent brokers or direct marketers that have a proven track record of handling auto insurance claims effectively. Get a referral, or check out the insurer's BBB Business Review at wynco.bbb.org. The Colorado Department of Insurance is another resource.
For reliable consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org or call (970) 484-1348 or 1-800-564-0371.
Luanne Kadlub is a communications editor for the Better Business Bureau.