Wildlife-related accidents: which insurance policies will pay?

According to accident statistics, deer and foxes are the most frequent victims of traffic accidents. Source: iStock

From hares to deer – on average, a car hits a wild animal every hour. Over 60 people are injured each year – and over 20,000 animals die. The damage caused by these accidents is estimated at around 40 to 50 million francs. But to what extent are collisions with deer, foxes and badgers covered by insurance policies?

Autumn tends to bring a notable increase in the number of wildlife-related accidents. The animals can no longer find food so easily, so they migrate in search of food along certain routes. This is compounded by the fact that it is often difficult for motorists to spot and react to a migration quickly enough at twilight. A major Swiss insurance company has determined that the probability of a wildlife-related accident is seven times higher in the cantons of Jura, Graubünden, Freiburg and Schaffhausen than in the canton of Geneva, and around three times higher than in Zurich or Basel-Landschaft. Urban areas are also affected: for example, the city of Zurich registers over 110 wildlife-related accidents each year.

In a worst-case accident scenario, an animal could land on the car bonnet and smash the windscreen. How can this be prevented?

Tips for avoiding wildlife-related accidents

  • Pay attention to traffic signs indicating wildlife migration routes.
  • Drive more slowly and with a greater safety margin along rural roads and in wooded areas. Keep an eye on the edge of forests and fields.
  • Turn on headlights to be able to see wild animals as early as possible – and to give them some warning.

If, in spite of these precautionary measures, a deer should run into the road or jump in front of your car, accident researchers advise emergency braking. Avoid violent steering movements. It is also advisable to dim your headlights and sound your horn to encourage the animal to run away. Wild animals usually travel in groups, so assume that there are more in the area and act accordingly.

What to do after an accident

Here are some tips on what to do if you hit a wild animal:

  • Stop and turn on your hazard lights.
  • Warn other road users using your breakdown triangle. Those who simply drive away are not only committing a hit-and-run, but also risk being charged for animal cruelty. The Swiss Animal Protection Act stipulates that a driver is obliged to act in the interests of an injured animal’s welfare by alerting the police or a game warden.
  • Remember the exact location of the collision.
  • Look to see where the animal is lying or mark the direction in which it has fled using a handkerchief, for example.
  • Move dead animals off the road to avoid further accidents with other vehicles. Animals must not be transported away in your car. Otherwise, the driver could be accused of having destroyed evidence, or even poaching.
  • Never touch or capture an injured animal. They are not used to dealing with people and could bite or try to flee with their last reserves of strength.
  • Always inform the police or a game warden (tel. 117) – accidents involving wild animals must be reported.
  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible.

Which insurance policies will pay out for damage caused by wild animals?

A collision with an animal is covered by partial casco insurance (comprehensive insurance). It is important to report the accident to a game warden or the police as soon as possible. This is because the insurance policy will only pay out if there has been official confirmation of the accident.

Without this confirmation, the person responsible for the accident will only receive compensation for the damage if they have full casco insurance (partial casco plus collision insurance). The policyholder must pay the deductible from their own pocket, and must also take into account a loss of their no-claims bonus.

Damage caused by swerving to avoid an animal and skidding into a ditch will only be reimbursed if the insured person has full casco insurace. With regard to the premiums, there are often substantial differences between the insurance companies. A recent analysis of insurance companies by revealed that on average, drivers overspend around 254 francs per year on their car insurance. Switching to a new car insurance policy will often result in substantial savings.