West Virginia auto insurers are paying more for deer-related accident claims despite the fact that fewer drivers are involved in deer-related crashes.
The West Virginia Department of Insurance has released its 2010 study that analyzes the economic impact of automobile accidents that occur due to the state’s large population of deers. The annual study is based on information collected by auto insurers in the state that represent 69 percent of the market.
The study found that in 2010, West Virginia drivers were involved in 21,417 deer-related accidents with an average amount per claim of $2,432. All told, insurers paid out a total of $52 million in deer-related claims.
By comparison, in 2009 there were 25,600 reported claims at an average cost per claim of $2,236. Over the course of the nine year study, insurers have on average paid out a total of $44 million per year in deer-related accident claims.
In 2010, deer-related accidents accounted for 19 percent of all personal auto physical damages and over 7.4 percent of all personal auto insurance costs. Researchers estimated that drivers in the state paid $50.16 in auto premiums due solely to physical damages related to deer-involved crashes.
Researchers, however, noted that the figures in the study represented only a portion of the total costs stemming from deer-related accidents. The study is confined to the amount insurers actually paid in damages under the comprehensive portion of a policy. Therefore, it excludes damages from collision coverage that insurers may pay where a driver swerves to avoid a collision with a deer but still wreaks a car.
The study also does not include deductibles paid out of a driver’s pocket. Additionally, the study does not capture medical costs paid under an auto policy or by a health insurer. Also excluded are lost wages a driver may incur due to a deer-related accident or instances where a driver was uninsured.
Based on data from the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, researchers found that most deer-related accidents occur in counties with the lowest population in the state. Researchers speculated that this is likely due to those counties having fewer roadways and interstates. Another factor may be the result of where hunters reduced the deer population around the state.
Comparing West Virginia to surrounding states, the study found that only Kentucky had fewer deer-related crashes at 15,310 and paid out less in total claims costs at $40.9 million.
Pennsylvania had the highest total of deer-related claims at 53,300, representing at a total cost of $132.7 million. It was followed by Ohio with 49,875 claims at a total cost of $123 million and Virginia with a total of 49,133 claims, representing $115.5 million in total cost. Rounding out the list is Maryland with 26,619 claims at a total cost of $73.9 million.
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