Pets Injured in Car Accidents

Pets injured in car accident blogMesa Injury Attorneys discuss what happens when your pet is injured in a car accident.  Your Arizona Accident Lawyers will assist you in getting made whole in car accidents with pets involved.  We are pet lovers just like you!

Approximately two-thirds of households in the United States have at least one pet. The pet industry in the United States is currently valued at about $99 billion. Clearly, Americans love our pets. It goes without saying that most American pet owners bring their pet in the car with them at least some of the time. Unfortunately, this means that these pets are at risk of being involved in the approximately 6 million car accidents in the United States per year. If you frequently drive with your pet in the car, it’s vital that you know what to do if your pet is injured in an accident, and how you can seek compensation for your veterinarian bills and other expenses.

Can I Seek Compensation for My Pet if Injured by Another in a Car Accident?

If another driver causes an accident which injures your pet, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance to cover your pet’s veterinarian bills. If their policy has property damage coverage, there may be a limit around $500-$1,000 for medical treatment for pets. Otherwise, your pets will be treated like other property items, and you will be reimbursed the market value of your pet if it passes away in the accident.

My Pet was Injured in a Car Accident, Can I Sue?

It can sound harsh to say that pets are treated as property for insurance purposes, but that is simply how laws and insurance policies are worded. A lot of this article has to do with whether insurance will cover injuries to your pet in an accident, but you can also recover from the driver individually if their policy doesn’t have pet coverage. This can usually be handled in small claims court. This will involve both proving that the other driver was at fault, and by proving the amount you are requesting is a reasonable calculation of your damages.

What Happens if my Pet gets injured in an auto accident?

If your pet is injured in a car accident, your first step (after all necessary emergency accident precautions) is to seek medical care for your pet. Your pet will likely be very scared, so you should speak softly and calmly, and avoid letting your pet escape from the vehicle into traffic. You may need to muzzle your pet before it receives medical treatment if it bites. Make sure you get the contact information of the other driver, and any witnesses, if applicable, before leaving the scene of the accident.

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, you should ask that they fully and clearly document your pet’s injuries, take pictures, and list a cause of death, if necessary. This should be completed before your pet is buried or cremated.

Once you have completed veterinarian treatment or burial or cremation, you will file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. You may need to negotiate with the insurance adjuster on whether your pet is covered, how much coverage applies, or the value of your pet’s life if it passes away. Factors like your pet’s pre-existing conditions, age, breed, and training. Besides the value of the pet and veterinarian bills, you may be able to collect for sentimental value, burial or cremation, emotional distress, and even punitive damages if the other driver was engaging in reprehensible or recklessly negligent conduct. You may be able to recover additional damages if your pet is social media famous or brings in income through other means.

Are Pets Covered in a Car Accident? — It Depends

This will depend on who was at fault for the accident, and what type of policy the at fault driver has. If you were at fault for the accident, your pet likely won’t be covered unless you have good comprehensive coverage. If you have separate pet insurance, this will cover veterinarian bills from an accident for which you were at fault. If the other driver was at fault, their insurance policy may not cover your pet’s injuries if they have a low-coverage policy. State minimum vehicle insurance does not cover pet damage. Keep in mind that many insurance policies only cover cat and dog injuries, and don’t cover injuries to other beloved furry family members like ferrets and birds.

Arizona Laws Regarding Driving with Pets

In Arizona, it is illegal to drive with a pet on your lap. You can be pulled over and cited under Arizona’s distracted driving laws. However, there is no law specifically requiring you to keep a pet restrained in Arizona- you just can’t have it on your lap. Because of Arizona’s extreme heat, it is also illegal to keep your pet in a vehicle unattended when it could cause injury or death to the animal. Most months of the year in Arizona, heat inside a vehicle can quickly skyrocket and cause distress and even death to your pet.

Ways to Protect Your Pet in an Auto Accident

Here are some tips that can possibly prevent your pet from being injured in a car accident:

  • Keep your pet in the back seat. Airbags are designed to save humans in car accidents, but can actually injure pets. 
  • Keep your pet restrained in a crate, carrier, or with a harness (although the first two options are proven to be safer).
  • Do not keep your pet in the bed of an open pickup truck. 
  • Don’t let your pet ride with their head out of the window.
  • Don’t pet or otherwise interact with your pet while driving. 

Auto Insurance vs Pet Insurance

You may assume that your pet will be covered by auto insurance policies if they are injured in a car accident, but even if the other driver has one of these policies, they come with many caveats. Pet insurance is a separate policy you can purchase in addition to your auto insurance. Pet insurance will cover veterinarian’s bills, up to your policy limit, regardless of if you were at fault for the accident. Your policy may provide for full or partial compensation for your veterinarian bills.

Pet and Auto Accident Statistics

AAA and Kurgo (a pet products company) conducted a research study on drivers with dogs in the car. Out of 1,000 United States dog owners, approximately 56% of them report driving with their dog at least once per month. Approximately 29% of them admit to being distracted by their dog while driving. However, 65% of the study participants admitted to engaging in conduct with their pet that could potentially distract them while driving. Only 16% of the participants stated that they keep their dog restrained while driving. The force of your pet unrestrained in your vehicle can injure you and other passengers in your vehicle, especially children.

Contact Your Mesa Injury Attorneys Today

If you or your pet has been injured in an accident, contact our Mesa Personal Injury Office and find out what options. Our experienced attorneys will happily evaluate your case. Call (602) 600-6001 for a free consultation. Let our experience and reputation get you the most for your case.  Do not hesitate to contact our Arizona accident attorneys today.  Our Mesa Accident Attorney and staff are dedicated to getting you what you deserve.