What You Can Do and Can’t Do if Your Dog or Cat Gets Injured in a Car Accident
By Patricia Ferreira, Pre-Lit Supervisor, Rubenstein Law
We all think about finding the right auto insurance coverage to protect us in case of an automobile accident, but have you ever thought about coverage for your dog or cat in case of an auto accident?
Those who have pets understand how important it is to keep our pet(s) healthy and safe. For most of us, our pet(s) are family. They are your companion, laughter, and security. They are just priceless. But what can you do if your pet gets injured in a car accident?
Florida is a “no-fault” state with respect to car insurance, meaning a person injured in an accident must first look to their own insurance carrier for compensation. Some insurance companies provide coverage for injuries to pets. For example, Progressive, started offering “collision coverage for customers’ dogs or cats at no additional premium cost” in 2007. Under Progressive’s policy, in the event the policyholder’s pet is injured in a car accident, this coverage pays up to $1,000 in veterinary bills for a dog or cat or a $1,000 benefit if the pet dies. You may also opt to purchase pet health insurance which will cover your pet in case of illnesses or injuries in accidents. Pet health insurance premiums vary from $25-$85 per month. It depends on what type of coverage you choose.
HOLDING THE NEGLIGENT DRIVER RESPONSIBLE
Even if your car policy does not cover pet injuries- and assuming you were not responsible for the accident that injured or killed your pet- you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance carrier. Florida law requires all drivers to carry at least $10,000 in “property damage liability”. This covers any damage done by a negligent driver to the victim’s property, which includes pets. Unfortunately, insurance companies consider your pet property but this is done for legal designation purposes. Some states allow pet owners who have lost a valued companion to collect only the “market value” of the pet. In other states, a court may let a pet owner recover damages for “sentimental value”, emotional distress, or “mental suffering”. Depending on the circumstances and state law, a dog owner may be able to convince a court to order the person responsible to pay for:
- Cost of treatment if your pet is injured (reasonable treatment only)
- Market or replacement value of the pet
- Sentimental value of the pet
- Emotional distress
- Additional money damages to punish the responsible person
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOLLOWING AN ACCIDENT
If your pet is injured in a car accident, keep detailed records of any treatment you seek on the animal’s behalf, including veterinary bills and receipts for prescription medications. The insurance company (or a judge) will need these records to verify your claim for compensation. You should also obtain a copy of the accident report taken by the police officer at the scene. In addition to the above, you should also keep any records that might establish other compensable injuries. For instance, if you are a dog or cat breeder and your dog or cat gets injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for economic losses. Same applies for service dogs. If your animal is a service dog who assists you in your day-to-day activities, you may also be entitled to compensation for economic losses, such as your inability to travel unassisted or go to work.
OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MINIMIZE THE RISKS OF YOUR PET GETTING INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT
There are numerous car safety products available to purchase for your car or dog including: seat belt tethers, car seats, carriers/crates, booster seats, among other products. The price for these products vary from $10-$200. Prior to writing this blog, I had no idea of the protections available for my pet in the event of an accident. As a pet owner and animal lover, there is no monetary value you can place on an injury or loss of your pet in an accident. It helps to know that some auto insurance companies are taking the initiative to acknowledge the importance of pets, our four-legged family members.