Whether you are going to the vet or taking a road trip, you likely spend some time driving with your dog or cat in the car. But car accidents are unpredictable, so what happens to your pet if they are in the car with you during an accident?
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Car accidents can happen to anyone, even the best drivers. This means everyone needs to be protected in an accident, even your four-legged passengers. Animals could be badly hurt in a serious accident, but who would be responsible for their vet bills? Depending on your your car insurance policy and carrier, your auto insurance might be able to help cover some of those bills.
Keeping your pet crated or harnessed in your car is an excellent way to keep them safe in a car crash
If you were at fault for the accident, your collision coverage could potentially cover the cost of your pet’s medical care. It you were not at fault, the other driver’s liability coverage may be responsible for some of your pet’s medical costs
If you have pet insurance, your pet’s injuries will typically be covered no matter what benefits are available through any applicable auto insurance policy
What happens if I get in an accident while my pet is in the car?
Depending on the situation, your pet’s vet bills could be covered in a number of ways.
If you have pet insurance, your pet will typically be covered no matter what benefits are available through any applicable auto insurance policy. If you spend a lot of time on the road with your dog or cat, you might consider purchasing pet insurance in case of an accident.
If it’s an at fault accident
If you were at fault for the accident, your collision coverage could potentially cover the cost of your pet’s medical care. As animals are technically classified as personal property, many collision policies offer a small amount towards the cost of medical care for your pet in the event of an accident.
Some policies, however, offer as much as $1,000 towards veterinary care if your dog or cat is injured in an auto accident, including:
Your specific benefits are dependent on your policy details and which state you live in, so it is important to check with your insurance representative to verify exactly what coverage is included in your policy.
If it’s a not at fault accident
If you were not at fault, you would file a claim with the other driver’s liability coverage. Your pet’s medical costs would be covered as property damage, but it is important to keep in mind that coverage for your pet is not guaranteed. For example, if the other driver is uninsured or only carries minimum levels of liability coverage, they might not have enough coverage to pay for both damages to your vehicle and medical expenses for your pet.
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What to do after a car accident if your pet is hurt
While there are some standard things that you should do if you are in an accident, there are several additional steps you should take if your pet is injured in a car accident, such as:
Document the accident - Take pictures of your pet’s injuries and keep any receipts from the vet
File an accident report - You need to file a report with any accident, but when your pet is injured you need to make sure your cat or dog’s injuries are included in the accident report
See your vet - Take your pet to the vet and get their injuries documented and treated. Ask for a copy of the records from this visit and keep them with your receipts so they can be submitted as part of your claim
Contact your insurance company - You need to report the accident and any injuries your pet has sustained
Does auto insurance cover pets hit by cars?
Sometimes pets aren’t inside the car in an auto accident. If your dog or cat is hit by a car your first responsibility is to get them any necessary medical care, but you may be left wondering who is responsible for their vet bills.
When your pet is hit by a car
If your pet is hit by a car the driver might be responsible. If this is the case, you can reach out to their insurance company to find out how much, if anything, their liability insurance will pay towards your pet’s medical costs.
Don’t assume, however, that you are automatically owed compensation if your pet is hit by a car. Insurance adjusters who are reviewing your case may find that your pet caused the accident, which could mean that you would be responsible for your pet’s medical bills as well as repairing any damage your pet caused to the driver’s car.
There is no guarantee that another driver’s liability insurance will cover the cost of your pet’s medical care, so it is important to keep your pet safely out of the road at all times. Pets should be leashed whenever they aren’t safe inside your house or behind a fence.
When you hit a pet with your car
If you hit an animal with your car it is your responsibility to pull over, assess the damage, and call the police to file a report. You should also call the number on the animal’s ID tag and exchange insurance information with the owner.
Your liability insurance will likely cover some amount of the animal’s medical bills, but this is tricky. Because pets are considered property, most insurance companies are likely to have a set “value” for what they are worth, the same way they determine the worth of other types of property like cars and houses. The odds are good they won’t pay thousands of dollars for an animal’s medical bills, so you may be expected to pay those costs out of pocket.
Tips for safe driving with your pet
Pets may be part of the family, but they aren’t people. This means you can’t just wrap a seatbelt around them and call it a day — there are specific ways to keep your pets safe in the car.
Focus on driving - Don’t let yourself get distracted by your pet, no matter how adorable they are. If you are busy trying to stop your dog from chewing on your emergency brake or focused on getting your cat off of the dashboard you aren’t paying attention to the road, which is unsafe. Keep pets restrained or in a carrier so they can’t distract you while you drive
Keep your pet in the back seat - Airbags can injure or kill your pet in an accident, which means it is safest to keep them in the back seat of the car
Crate your pet - Pet crates can keep your pet restrained in the vehicle while you are driving, keeping them safe in the event of an accident. If crating your pet isn’t an option, you can buy special harnesses that clip into the seatbelts in your car to limit their movement in an accident
Keep the windows up - Dogs love hanging their head out of the window while you drive, but this isn't safe. Not only is your pet at risk of jumping or falling from the car, but if you are in an accident they can suffer severe head and neck injuries
Frequently Asked Questions
Does my umbrella policy cover pets?
Umbrella policies typically cover injuries, damage to property, certain lawsuits, and personal liability situations, but the details of your policy will vary based on a number of factors. Umbrella policies generally focus more on liability protection when it comes to animals, like protecting you financially if your dog bites somebody.
It is possible an umbrella policy might offer additional coverage for pets, but you will need to review the specific details of your coverage with your insurance representative to know what is and is not covered by your insurance.
Does pet insurance cover your dog in a car accident?
Yes! Pet insurance coverage is designed to protect your pet in the event of an accident, so people who are concerned about paying vet bills in the event of a car accident may find that pet insurance offers them the best coverage in that situation.
How can I protect my dog in a car crash?
Keeping your dog crated or harnessed in your car is an excellent way to protect them in a car crash. Keeping your dog leashed if they are outside can prevent them from running into traffic and being hit by a car. Having pet insurance can help you cover any vet bills you may encounter in the event of an accident.