20 June 2013

Losses and Lessons Cliffhanger: ’69 Opel owner and his dog escape just in time


WHAT WENT WRONG: It’s been said that truth is stranger than fiction. The owner of a bright yellow 1969 Opel can certainly attest to that. Driving through the mountains of northern Virginia with his Redbone Coonhound, Lucy, relaxing comfortably on the passenger’s seat, he swerved to avoid a deer as it bounded out of the woods. The Opel hit the gravel on the side of the road, and the driver lost control of the car. Amazingly, he and Lucy both escaped just moments before the Opel tumbled over the edge of a 75-foot cliff.

DAMAGE/LOSS: The driver still can’t explain how he and his best friend escaped without injury, but he said he typically slides the handle of Lucy's leash over the stick shift, so he was able to grab it before bailing out. The Opel fared much worse than its occupants and was totaled. Hagerty paid the Guaranteed Value of $10,000.

LESSON: Chances are, this was one of the very first things you were told in drivers training: Never, ever swerve to avoid an animal or object in the road (unless it’s a human being, of course). It’s an instinctive reaction, but you could lose control of the car and injure someone. Cars, on the other hand, can be repaired. Fortunately, this story had a happy ending, but the Opel owner could have lost a lot more than his classic car.

19 Reader Comments

  • 1
    karl SC July 10, 2013 at 13:55
    Sounds a bit "fishy" to me!!
  • 2
    Amy Washington July 10, 2013 at 14:32
    To jump off what Jeff. said is true.. My mother in Law worked 40 years in the insurance business, and yes they can dump you like a HOT ROCK, even if they say they won't yes they will this happened to us.. I won't say which company it is , but that happen to us, it was a slippery, icy day and we hit a clear spot in the road and we did a spin and went into a ditch the company paid for the damage, but when it was time to re up they took us off. Insurance Companies are not your friend, don't tell them anymore then you have too.
  • 3
    The Ranch Arizona July 10, 2013 at 16:16
    Rear ended by a DRUNK DRIVER in Calif. Farmers Ins. didn't hesitate one nanoo minute to drop me. If I had the money I've payed Ins. for coverage,I'd be in the Ins. Business.
  • 4
    pncamarillo@yahoo.com calif. July 10, 2013 at 16:17
    OK, it does smell a tad...BUT, that does not mean it is!...let's leave that to the pro's to figure out...although they also make errors, their track record is way better then amateurs.
  • 5
    kevin tx July 10, 2013 at 16:39
    Yep, hitting the dear would have been lest costly, and almost less deadly. always stay the course and hit the dear...always if you can
  • 6
    Patty Arkansas July 10, 2013 at 19:41
    This story only sounds fishy because they wrote it that way. If he had planned it, he would not have taken the dog along. Mother-in-law, maybe.
  • 7
    Don PA July 10, 2013 at 19:42
    Being dropped for one accident stinks. Maybe Congress can pass a law making this illegal? It's just not fair!
  • 8
    jeff california July 10, 2013 at 10:43
    Bet Hagerty wouldn't insure his next car after he made this claim. That's what happened to me, and all they did was replace a windshield for $250.
  • 9
    David Houston, TX July 10, 2013 at 10:53
    Possibly poor advice - in some cases not swerving is more dangerous. Animals like elk and moose have long legs and almost their entire body mass is above the typical hood-height. Unlike a cow which will wreck the front of the car, hitting one of them will probably merely break its legs right before a half a ton of critter comes through the windshield at speed.That said, I remember a guy in Lawrence, KS who swerved to avoid a dog and rolled his Land Cruiser a few times. He DROVE it in to buy the replacement top.
  • 10
    Frank Wichita July 10, 2013 at 10:57
    Sounds like he just 'dumped' it for the insurance money!!!
  • 11
    Dave somewhere in New Mexico July 10, 2013 at 23:21
    Yep, years ago I had full coverage on a 1965 Mercedes Benz. They were happy to collect my premiums. When somebody did a hit and run with a U Haul truck, it suddenly became a "special interest" car. It was another major company, not Hagerty.
  • 12
    Keith United States July 10, 2013 at 12:29
    I grew up in Southern Mississippi and it's a good idea to swerve/dodge deer coming out of the woods because quite often they go through the windshield and kill people. This may not be true for a pickup truck or other larger vehicle, but if you're driving a small car like an Opal, MG, Fiat, or such... you really want to do whatever you can (short of running off the road) to NOT hit a deer.
  • 13
    Randall W Tacey Bremerton, WA July 11, 2013 at 21:17
    Back in 90 or 91, I was teaching a swingshift class and coming home from work at around 0100. When I rounded the curve about a half mile from home I seen a deer start to leap across the road. I just knew that the deer was going to rip the whole top off my spitfire so I did my best to crawl under the passenger side dashboard. I heard a loud bang and let the car coast to a stop. When I sat up, to my surprise, the roof was still attached to the car. I got out of the car and the bonnet had a six inch crease down the eact center of the bonnet. The right side bumber guard had the top broken off and there was about a dozen deer hairs resting on top of the metal hinge. The deer was alive and glaring at me, but that was the only damage to the car. I kept the crease in the bonnet for about ten years until I finally pounded it out with a rubber mallet.
  • 14
    Dave WA July 11, 2013 at 12:27
    My in-law hit a jack-ass & the whole animal came through the windshild. lucky eveyone ducked but they were all spattered with animal remains. If you must hit a larger animal go for the rear section and hope to spin the animal out of the way as much as possible. Motor Vehicle Safety / Dave
  • 15
    William Mt Airy, MD July 13, 2013 at 09:27
    I hit a deer at high speed on the interstate and totaled my camry. I simply hit the brakes and kept the car straight. The impact bent my hood up and it acted to block the deer from coming into the windshield. The ins company said that if I hadn't hit the deer first, and then hit something else, they would not have paid. Swerving at high speed is never a good idea. I had a friend do that on the PA turnpike to miss a deer and rolled his truck putting him and his wife in the hospital. Glad to see Hagerty paid the agreed value for this guy.
  • 16
    Joel Dark Island,Fl July 16, 2013 at 15:39
    I hit a large wild pig at highway speeds did not swerve. I went up and over it. My ins. Co. fixed the car under comp.
  • 17
    Former Casualty Adj Southern California July 23, 2013 at 15:17
    By swerving to avoid the deer, this was probably considered a "chargeable" loss and would raise his rates or subject him to non-renewal. If he hit the deer, then this would be considered a "comprehensive" loss and subsequently "non-chargeable". Quite possibly, he may have a lower comprehensive deductible than collision deductible.
  • 18
    Milo Roxboro, NC July 23, 2013 at 15:21
    There are several inaccurate statements being made on this discussion. Usually if an insurance company drops you for one claim, there is a lot more going on with your record than just one claim. As a longtime Hagerty agent, I have had clients with more than 1 claim in a 5 year period and they were not dropped/nonrenewed. However, a major violation (C &R, DWI, etc) will get you nonrenewed - The devil is in the details. BTW, if you hit the deer, it's a comprehensive loss. If you miss the deer and wreck, then it is a collision loss and would not be covered unless you carried collision.
  • 19
    Steve Michigan September 26, 2013 at 05:25
    @ Jeff, yah there is more to your story, they paid to have my winshield replaced in my truck, And I am still insured with them.

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