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Why am I at fault for attempting to avoid a deer jumping out of the woods in front of my vehicle?

Asked by user in Massachusetts.

I turned to avoid the deer and struck a utility pole. The only damage is to my vehicle.

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

If there’s no damage to the utility pole, you can’t be held liable by the power company for hitting the pole. If there is damage to the pole, your insurance company should cover the damage (in Massachusetts, you’re required to carry insurance that covers damage to someone else’s property).

Let’s take a look at how the accident might impact your insurance rates:

  • If you hit a deer while driving, your insurance company will typically consider it a “not-at-fault accident” because, in most cases, there’s little you could have done to avoid the crash. As a result, your insurance company generally won’t raise your rates.
  • On the other hand, if you swerve to avoid a deer and hit something else (like a utility pole), your insurance company will typically consider it an “at-fault accident” because you had at least some control over the situation. As a result, your insurance company might raise your rates.

Keep in mind that the damage to your vehicle is probably covered by your collision coverage (assuming you have collision coverage, which is not required in Massachusetts). If you don’t have collision coverage, you’ll have to pay for the repairs yourself. This is because there’s no one else you can hold liable for the accident (you can’t, for example, sue the deer).

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