By Maggie Potter
About 20-50 million people are injured in car accidents in the U.S. each year. But, that statistic doesn’t factor in any four-legged friends who might be with you while you’re driving. As of 2017, there were almost 90 million dogs owned in the United States. As you might expect, there’s bound to be some overlap. Dogs aren’t immune to getting into car accidents, and it’s completely out of their control.
But, most pet owners tend to think of their furry friends like family. The last thing you probably want to think about is your dog getting injured in any way, let alone from an auto accident where you were behind the wheel. Unfortunately, it can happen if the accident is severe enough.
So, what should you do if it happens? How can you protect yourself and your dog? What happens if you accidentally injure or kill another person’s dog in an accident?
No, they aren’t pleasant scenarios to think about. But, the more prepared you are for the worst possible situation, the more you’ll be able to focus on doing what’s best for yourself and your dog.
What to Do if Your Dog Gets Injured
There are a few things you should do right away if your dog was in the car with you after an accident:
- Make sure they’re okay
- Assess them for any injuries
- Go to your local vet to get your dog checked out
- File an insurance claim
Dogs can experience serious injuries from car accidents. Some of the most common issues are fractured bones or lacerations, and even potential trauma to the head. They can also experience internal bleeding. So, even if your pooch looks fine, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a veterinarian.
As with any car accident, you’ll need to file an insurance claim. Most insurance companies view pets as property, so they may be willing to pay for some of your pet’s vet bills or reimburse you for your pet’s market value if they pass away due to the accident.
What Are Your Legal Rights?
Every state has different legal rights assigned to individuals in car accidents. You should never admit fault to the other driver or to police officers on the scene. Instead, talk to a personal injury or accident attorney. Most people don’t know all of the ins and outs of the rules and regulations for each state, so working with a layer can help you to learn more about your rights. That will make it easier to protect your rights.
Some states, like Michigan, are “no-fault” states, so it doesn’t matter who caused the accident. Your insurance company will have to cover any damages or injuries, even to your dog. These rights might change on a state-by-state basis as technology continues to evolve. For example, there are estimated to be about 10 million self-driving cars on the road. But, they’re not always perfect. If you get into an accident with a self-driving car through no fault of your own, your state’s policies on “no-fault accidents” may shift.
Additionally, you should know the medical rights of your dog. In 2017, a Massachusetts man was arrested for rushing to get his injured dog to the hospital and speeding through traffic to do so. Also in 2017, two EMTs in Ohio were suspended after they tried to provide medical assistance to a dog injured in an auto accident. So, instead of rushing to the hospital or expecting medical services meant for humans to care for your injured dog, the best thing you can do is to go to your local veterinarian or animal hospital.
If you injure or kill someone else’s dog with your car, do what you can to care for the animal, including paying for vet bills if they’re required. While there aren’t many legal steps someone can take to “blame” you for hurting their dog, you should take responsibility for what happened, even if it was an accident, and do what you can to compensate the dog owner for their grief.
How to Keep Your Dog Safer in the Car
So, how can you keep your dog safe on your travels? Obviously, accidents aren’t completely avoidable even if you practice safe driving habits. But, there are a few things you can do to make your dog more secure in case an accident does occur, including:
- Keeping them in a crate in the car
- Lining their crate with soft blankets
- Install a back seat barrier
- Use a dog seatbelt or harness
- Don’t let them hang out the window
More people than ever are traveling with their dogs. That’s especially true for the Millennial generation. In fact, 52% of Millennial dog owners take their pet with them on their travels if they’re going to be gone more than two nights. That includes air travel and, of course, car travel. As more people travel with their dogs, the risk of auto accidents with dogs also goes up. Keep these ideas in mind if you’re in a car accident with your dog, so you’ll know how to protect yourself legally and get your dog to safety. Additionally, try some of the securing preventative measures to keep your dog safe while you’re driving, and reduce the risk of them getting injured if you’re in an accident.
Maggie Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book. You can connect with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia