Ask an agent: Critter conundrums

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

If you’ve got questions about your insurance coverage, claims or just pesky random scenarios that pop up — our experts have the answers. Welcome back to Ask an Agent, our advice column where we share questions we’ve gotten and the answers from The Zebra licensed insurance agents. 

Today, we’re looking at questions related to animals and the mayhem they can cause to vehicles. Who’s at fault when the culprit is four-legged? What type of coverage do you need? Read on for real questions and the solutions are experts gave. 

Question 1: Does the smell of a dead rodent count as damages?

Rodent died deep in my new cars vent after he chewed my seat. Is it covered? Came home from vacation and opened my car and it smelled like death. When I turned on the A/C, it smelled 10 times worse. Something definitely died in the vent system. According to the dealership, it is deep in there and will take 7-8 hours to remove. The mouse even chewed a hole in the passenger seat :(. I called the insurance company and they said they will cover any damage caused by the rodent, but not the removal of the carcass. Isn't the smell that is preventing me from driving the car damage? How do I avoid a disastrous bill here?

-Nightmare in New York

When there is an animal-involved incident, your comprehensive coverage would pay for the damages to your car. The insurance company will have to pay to repair the damage that was done to the car.

Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that they have to pay for the removal of the rodent. That is something that the insurance adjuster would determine. If you feel that the insurance company should pay for the removal, then you will have to dispute the claim with your insurance company. Technically the smell of a car is not a reason that will make the car undrivable. On a side note, there are sprays you can buy that will prevent animals from crawling into your car and chewing wires causing even more damage. 


Question 2. What happens when a deer runs into my car?

I was driving down the road when a deer ran right into the passenger side door of my car. There is a huge dent and I'm worried I may not be covered. What coverage do I need for this?

-Pursued in Pennslyvania

Animals cause all sorts of damage to vehicles, and not always because someone hits them with their car. Luckily, insurance companies don't discriminate over you hitting an animal or an animal hitting your car. In cases of damage caused by animals, with the exception of hitting a dead animal in the road, comprehensive coverage is what you need. This jack-of-all-trades coverage protects drivers from all sorts of hazards, whether parked or while driving, so check to see if this is included on your policy.

Question 3: If I hit a raccoon, am I at fault?

I was driving the other night and a raccoon came out of nowhere. I didn't have a chance to swerve or stop. I feel awful! Am I at fault? And how much will it cost out of pocket as my deductible?

-Owning It in Oregon

If you've been following along in this column, you've probably noted a theme. Readers at home, you may even be able to answer this one yourselves.

If you hit a raccoon, that would be considered a comprehensive claim. Your deductible would apply. You need to get an estimate for the cost to repair the damage. Once you have that you can decide if it is worth filing a claim considering your deductible. You also want to consider your claims history. The comprehensive claim will likely go onto your claims report and can impact your rates for up to three years. Be sure to check out our article explaining how and when to file a claim and what to expect at each step of the process.  


Do you have a question you'd like to annoymously ask one of our agents? Shoot us a message here, and we'll get back to you shortly!