Car accidents involving wild animals are common in France, so what are your insurance rights if it happens to you?
Last year there were 23,000 vehicle accidents in France involving a wild animal.
According to the environmental specialists the Office de génie écologique (OGE), this is six times more than occurred during the 1980s.
The growth in traffic offers one explanation for this increase, but wild animal numbers have also risen, with wild boar in particular having quintupled in the last 20 years.
Nearly 70% of all accidents are caused by a collision with deer and 24% with a wild boar. The distances travelled by these animals during Spring and Autumn means that in many areas they are frequently seen crossing country roads and lanes.
In contrast to accidents involving a domestic pet, in a collision with a wild animal no-one can be held responsible.
What then is the position in relation to an insurance claim if you are involved in a collision with a wild animal?
The first step is to contact your insurer, who should then be in a position of making a claim to a statutory insurance fund called the Fonds de garantie des assurances obligatoires de dommages (FGAO).
This insurance fund also acts in relation to 'hit and run' accidents, or an accident caused by an uninsured motorist.
The FGAO will consider the claim provided the collision took place on a public road, and that no person could be held responsible.
Thus, if the accident was caused by conduct involving an animal breeder or a hunter, then no claim is possible. That said, the fact that a hunt might have been taking place in the area at the time would not necessarily invalidate the claim.
All Risks Insurance
If you have all risks (tous risques) car insurance in France then any claims arising from the collision will be taken on by your insurance company. These costs would include not only repairs to the vehicle, but also any medical costs arising from the accident or compensation for incapacity.
If there is an excess clause in your policy, then this clause does not operate in relation to collisions involving wild animals, as the excess will be paid by the FGAO, whatever the amount of the excess.
If your all risks policy does not cover the driver (or passengers), then again the FGAO will cover the insurance costs of any claim involving the occupants of the vehicle.
Third Party Insurance
If you only have a third party (responsabilité civile) insurance cover, the FGAO will cover any damage to your vehicle or personal injury, although the process may well be a more protracted one, due to the greater need in such cases to weed out fraudlent claims.
You will need to provide proof of the accident, including any photographs taken at the scene, although proof is not required where the accident has caused at least a 10% permanent incapacity, hospitalisation for at least seven days, or in the event of a fatality.
In order to process the claim, your insurer will appoint an expert to determine the cause of the accident. Their report will then be passed to the FGAO to consider the claim.
No Claims Bonus
In either case, whether your no-claims bonus would be affected would depend on the terms of your policy. Different insurers apply different rules. If there was a warning sign in the area alerting you to the presence of wild animals, your no-claims bonus could well be reduced.