When I was a young driver, I learned the hard way about deer causing car crashes.
I was heading from Atlanta along I-20 into Alabama, driving my first car
ever – a red Chevy Nova. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and
I was listening to the radio, enjoying the weather, and altogether having
a great drive.
I was riding on a four-lane road with a very large ditch between the eastbound
lanes and the westbound lanes. Suddenly I noticed a deer coming from the
other side of the road. He moved into the median, crossing toward my side
of the road. My first thought was a naïve, but excited, “Oh,
look! A deer!” As I realized the deer was headed directly toward
my car, my thought changed to a horrified, “Oh, look! A deer!”
I was driving in the right-hand lane, and no one was in the left-hand lane.
I swerved toward the left-hand lane, but it was of no use. The deer was
bound and determined to run a kamikaze mission into my car.
I will never forget that sickening thump on my driver’s side door.
I had never heard of a deer running into a car, but that morning I was
abruptly introduced to a grim fact: it is not at all unusual that deer
cause car wrecks in Georgia and Alabama, and indeed all over the country.
That Saturday morning I drove what seemed an interminable distance to the
next exit, where I pulled off the highway to call the police. I pulled
on the door handle to get out of the car, only to find that the door would
not open. I had been upset and frantic because the deer had been hurt;
it had never even occurred to me that my car might be damaged.
I got out the passenger door, and then walked around the car. I was shocked
to see that the driver’s side of my car was completely caved in.
I had narrowly missed having the deer come through the windshield, which
is often fatal.
I was lucky that day. My car was hurt, but I was relatively unscathed.
On its County Level Data page, the Georgia Department of Transportation
(“GA DOT” or “Georgia DOT”) issues several reports,
including “Deer Related Crashes“, “Deer Related Crash Injuries”, and “Deer Related
Crash Fatalities.” According to these tables, between 2000 and 2006,
more than 5000 people received personal injuries in Georgia accidents
caused by deer. Thirty-one people died.
When I had my car wreck, I was in a rural area. For obvious reasons deer
crashes are more common in rural areas than in cities. Still, from time
to time I read about a deer-car collision on I-285, the giant, mega-highway
that encircles Atlanta.
The deer who ran into my Chevy Nova had no insurance, of course. However,
my insurance company paid for the extensive repairs my car needed.
Today, years later, I am a lawyer handling deer accident lawsuits. I meet
clients who have had a loved one killed in a car wreck with a deer, or
clients who were seriously injured when their cars ran into a deer or
in a wreck caused when someone swerved to avoid a deer. Often, I can give
these clients the good news that insurance is available to cover their
losses and personal injuries from the deer-and-car wreck. I can also look
them in the eyes and tell them I get it – I really get it, because
I know exactly what it feels like to have a deer headed toward you on