PETS AND CAR ACCIDENTS: WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Americans spend $41 billion annually on pets. According to The Humane Society, over 60% of American households include at least one pet. Our furry friends have worked their way into our hearts, homes and inevitably, our cars. So, what happens if you’re involved in a car accident with your animal? Are their injuries covered by car insurance? What if your pet dies? What happens if you are injured in the accident, and unable to care for your pet?
As long as you’re not at fault for the accident, and as long as the negligent driver carries liability insurance, your pet’s veterinary treatment expenses will be covered, as your pet is personal property. Don’t be offended your pet is considered property. It’s just the way insurance policies are written. However, there are limits to how much can be compensated.
If your pet should perish from injuries sustained in an accident, the compensation formula can be complicated. A pet owner may convince a court to order the responsible party to pay for market value of the pet, sentimental value, emotional distress and even punitive damages. These values would be based on the pet’s age, health, breed, training and special traits.
For pet owners injured in a car accident, local chapters of The Humane Society will often keep the pet until the owner or a family member can pick it up, usually for up to three days, free.
To guarantee coverage for your pet in a car accident, regardless of fault, you must shop around. Each car insurance company handles pets differently. A few provide coverage, but most don’t. The few auto insurance companies that don’t exclude pets, provide coverage under the “collision” protection at no extra cost. Limits usually range from $500 to $1,000. And remember, your regular pet insurance won’t cover your pet’s injuries from a car accident. It only covers illness.
Pet owners should feel comforted knowing there are legal options to help pay for the injury or loss of a pet in an auto accident.