When you purchase car insurance you are thinking of protecting your family, passengers and vehicle. Have you thought of your pet? If you are in a car accident and your pet is injured, how will your veterinarian bills get paid? This depends on many factors, most importantly, who was at fault in the accident.
If you are at fault in the accident, your pet may or may not be covered depending on your policy. Even though you may feel your pet is part of the family, for car insurance purposes, pets are considered property. If you only carry liability coverage, injuries to your pet will not be covered. You will be responsible for any vet bills out of your pocket.
Some insurance companies cover pets under collision policies, but this is rare and the coverage is usually low. For example, Progressive Insurance has $1000 in pet injury coverage as part of its collision coverage. Some insurance companies restrict these payments to only cats and dogs. Some insurance companies restrict their coverage to exclude certain breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. Check with your car insurance company to determine your coverage, question your insurance agent and read the fine print.
If you are not at fault in the accident your pets are still considered property so their bills would be covered under the at fault driver’s liability property damage coverage. This means that if the at fault driver only has $25,000 in property damage coverage and totals your new car, there likely won’t be much left to pay your vet bills. The coverage applies no matter what kind of pet you have in the car. Dog, cat, hamster or lizard, they are all covered under the at fault driver’s liability property damage coverage.
It is important to know what exactly you are covered for under your automobile insurance policies. Knowledge allows you to plan for those unexpected bills and situations. If your pet travels with you frequently and you are worried about coverage through your automobile policy, an alternative or supplement to car insurance coverage would be pet insurance. For a monthly fee, pet insurance covers your pet’s veterinarian bill in case of accident or illness.
When you are traveling with your pet there are several steps you can take to keep your pet safe:
1. Keep your pet restrained either in a crate, carrier or harness and seatbelt made specifically for your animal. An unrestrained animal becomes dangerous to humans in an accident. An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force.
2. Make sure you have food and water for your pet.
3. Make regular stops to let your animal out of the car to stretch and go to the bathroom. Make sure your animal is on a leash if they are outside your vehicle. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises pet owners to stop every two to three hours for their pets to use the bathroom and get some exercise.
4. Do not leave your pet in the car alone.
5. If you are traveling a long distance, bring your pet’s veterinarian records and medications with you. Ensure that your pets have tags and/or are chipped in case they escape on the trip.
6. Make sure your pets are not a distraction to you while driving. About 30,000 accidents are caused each year by unrestrained dogs, according to the AAA.
Venus Poe, Esquire has been a lawyer for over 15 years. She has offices in Fountain Inn and Greenville. She works primarily with the victims of auto accidents, work-related injuries, wrongful deaths and social security disability. She can be contacted at (864) 963-0310 or on the web at www.venuspoe.com. The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.