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Contact with Animal NOT a Collision?

Author: Bill Wilson

A Business Auto Policy was written with Collision and Specified Causes of Loss coverage. The insured struck a deer and the adjuster denied the claim on the basis that, since the policy lacked comprehensive coverage, there was no coverage for striking an animal. Is this correct?

Question"Our insured has his commercial auto written on the CA 00 01 03 06. He carries collision and specified perils. He recently hit a deer, suffering damage to his grill and right front bumper and the claim was denied base on 3. Glass Breakage - Hitting A Bird or Animal - Falling Objects or Missiles under Section II, A.Coverage. I disagree. Regardless, it is my feeling that it is still a collision claim and should be covered subject to the deductible."

Question"We represent an insurer that is denying coverage for an insured who struck a deer. Our insured carries Specified Causes of Loss and Collision coverage. The adjuster advised that coverage would only apply if the insured carried Comprehensive coverage. They will not interpret coverage under the Collision coverage of the auto policy. We (our agency) dispute this interpretation. What do you think?" 

Question"I have large commercial truck fleet with Specified Causes of Loss and Collision. One of the trucks hit a deer. The carrier paid but is now advising they paid in error and that the claim not covered because the insured does not carry Comprehensive coverage. My contention is that the claim is covered under collision (collision with an object)."

QuestionIf an insured has a vehicle with specified perils and collision and the vehicle hits a deer, doing major damage to vehicle (not just glass breakage), we don't see where this is excluded and should be covered under the collision subject to the deductble. Please advise.

AnswerThis type of interpretation comes up fairly often when dealing with Comprehensive vs. Specified Causes of Loss coverage. The adjuster's logic, while understandable, is incorrect. Here is the CA 00 01 03 06 physical damage provision in question:

3.  Glass Breakage - Hitting A Bird Or Animal 
    - Falling Objects Or Missiles

    If you carry Comprehensive Coverage for
    the damaged covered "auto", we will pay
    for the following under Comprehensive

    a. Glass breakage;

    b. "Loss" caused by hitting a bird or
; and

    c. "Loss" caused by falling objects or

    However, you have the option of having
    glass breakage caused by a covered
    "auto's" collision or overturn considered
    a "loss" under Collision Coverage.

The purpose of this provision is two-fold. First, it defines, for example, contact with a bird or animal to be a Comprehensive loss IF you have Comprehensive coverage. The logic is that the driver has little, if any, control over an animal that darts in front of a moving vehicle. Therefore, to recognize the probable and normal lack of negligence on the part of the driver, the loss will be covered under Comprehensive coverage which most often carries a lower deductible and for which losses are not usually "chargeable" against the insured. Second, glass breakage that occurs as a result of a collision may be paid under Collision coverage. This avoids the application of two deductibles, one for Collision and one for Comprehensive.

However, note the conditional sentence: "IF you carry Comprehensive coverage," hitting a bird or animal will be considered a comprehensive loss. The key word is "If." Contact by the auto with another object — living or otherwise — is a "collision." However, as noted above, IF you have Comprehensive coverage, the loss is recoverable under that coverage...usually at a lower deductible and with little or no impact on your driving record. The policy does not say that hitting a bird or animal is ONLY a comprehensive loss.

Therefore, if the insured has only collision and specified perils coverage, contact with a bird or animal is still, by anyone's definition, a collision.

Note: This misconception is common even in personal auto, as this article quoting an insurance commissioner illustrates:

"Deer Accidents Are Often Not Covered"

​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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