Wildlife collisions – who pays for the damage?

| By Andrea Auer |
Source: iStock / ysbrandcosijn

Some 20,000 wildlife-related accidents occur on Swiss roads each year (source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office – information in German only). Collisions with deer are the most common cause. The cost of the damage resulting from such accidents can quickly add up to several thousand francs. But what type of insurance covers this kind of damage? And what should I do in the event of a wildlife-related accident? Comparis provides some answers.

The number of wildlife-related accidents tends to increase in autumn and spring. One reason is that commuter traffic starts to shift into the twilight hours, making it more difficult for motorists to spot animals. In addition, the animals tend to migrate further than in summer in search of food and mates.

How do I reduce the risk of colliding with an animal?

By observing the following guidelines, you can minimize the risk of an animal-vehicle collision.

  • Reduce your speed when driving on roads adjacent to agricultural cropland (e.g. corn fields) or in forest areas.
  • Be particularly vigilant in the early morning, at dusk and at night.
  • Pay attention to “wildlife crossing” road signs.
  • Keep an eye of the edge of fields and forests.
  • Put your headlights on full beam to enable you to see wild animals sooner.
  • If you notice animals close to the road, dip your headlights and slow down.
  • If you encounter animals on the road, sound your horn and switch on your hazard lights. Stop the car if you can.
  • Wild animals are rarely out and about on their own. If an animal runs out into the road, another often follows.

What should I do if a collision seems imminent?

If an animal runs in front of your car, you should perform an emergency stop. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and avoid large steering movements. Try to stay in your lane as far as possible. If you swerve out of the way, you may endanger yourself and other road users, as well as cause financial damage. If you end up in a ditch without touching the animal, the resulting damage is not considered a “wildlife-related accident” and will not be covered by partial casco insurance.

What should I do after a collision with an animal?

If you hit a wild animal, you should proceed as follows:

  • Stop and switch on your hazard lights. If you drive off, the incident will be classed as “hit-and-run” and you could be charged for animal cruelty in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Position your warning triangle to alert other drivers to the accident.
  • Note the location of the collision.
  • Check whether the animal is still on the road, or mark the direction in which it has fled.
  • Do not approach a wounded animal. It may bite you or run away injured. If the latter happens, the gamekeeper will have trouble finding the animal and it may suffer an agonizing death.
  • Always notify the police (117) or gamekeeper. The person responsible will be called out and will take care of the animal.
  • Never under any circumstances put an animal in your vehicle and drive off with it. If you do, you risk being accused of poaching or destroying evidence.
  • Wait for the police or person responsible to arrive.

Our tip: Put on your reflective vest before getting out of your vehicle. Although you are not required to keep one in your vehicle, it is for your own safety – especially in the dark and during twilight hours.

Which insurance covers wildlife-related accidents?

If you have an accident involving a wild animal, contact your insurer as soon as possible. Do not arrange any repairs without consulting them first. You can make a claim by telephone or online.

Partial casco insurance covers collisions with animals. A police or gamekeeper's report may be helpful in supporting your claim for damage to your vehicle. If you do not have this report, a claims adjuster will inspect the damage. Not having a report also delays the claims process and may, in the worst-case scenario, lead to your claim being rejected under partial casco insurance.

Full casco insurance, by contrast, covers the damage to your vehicle even if you do not have a report or if you swerve and do not hit the animal. However, in this case, you will need to pay the deductible agreed in your policy. You may also lose your no-claims bonus, depending on your insurer.

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