alligatorThere are many scenic routes you can take through the heavily-wooded areas or marshlands of Volusia and Flagler counties. Although these rural roads and highways offer beautiful landscape, they present dangers not so common in our more urban areas. These natural habitats are home to many of Florida's indigenous wildlife such as alligators, bears, panthers, tortoises, deer, and other creatures.

When these critters wander onto a road, an unwary driver may be at risk.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there were 189 fatalities in auto accidents with animals in 2016—four of which in Florida. The majority of these tragic deaths occurred July through September. One reason why many people suffer serious injuries is due to the size of the creatures, as they often crash through the windshield.

While various types of animal crossings around busy highways protect both humans and wildlife, vehicle-animal strikes are still on the rise in Florida as creatures seek out food sources, new habitats, and mates. For example, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that 245 bears were killed by vehicle strikes in 2017—more than double the amount recorded in 2000.

How Insurance Compensates for Injuries and Property Damage

Collisions with animals darting into the road—or attempts to avoid hitting them—may result in a driver suffering serious injuries and even death.

The average cost for vehicle repair is $2,000 or more after an animal strike. The approximate cost of medical expenses can be $3,000 or more. You may also have to pay towing and carcass removal fees.

It's up to you or your insurance company to pay for vehicle damage and cover related medical expenses. If you carry just the basic insurance required by Florida, this policy may not be enough. Here are some required and optional insurance coverages that may help:

  • Comprehensive coverage. This coverage is an option that pays for damage to your car caused by events other than an accident involving another vehicle. This may include can include theft, fire, vandalism, natural disasters, and animal strikes.
  • Collision coverage. Adding this to your policy helps pay for repairs to your vehicle even if you're the one at fault. It covers vehicle damage caused by hitting a curb or pothole; backing into a car at a parking lot; an accident with another vehicle; and hitting a tree—common in accidents with animals.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. You're required to carry at least $10,000 in PIP coverage as part of your insurance policy under Florida’s no-fault laws to pay medical bills and lost wages caused by a car accident. This mandatory coverage has varying limits, so depending on the wildlife in your region, it may be wise to secure the highest coverage amount.

In order to avoid potential hazards:

  • Always keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.
  • Remember that dawn and dusk are more active times for animal crossings, so use your high beams to have more time to react if you see a creature.
  • If you see an animal near the side of the road, slow down and keep your eye on it until you're safely past.
  • Assume if you see one creature, there may be others nearby. Statistics from the Animal Protection Institute indicate that nearly 70 percent of animal-vehicle collisions happen after a driver passes one animal safely, then speeds up and fails to see another. 

If you have questions regarding car insurance coverage for these and other types of car accidents, or were involved in a crash, please contact Johnson & Gilbert to schedule a free consultation. We're here to answer your questions and help you obtain necessary compensation for your recovery.