Whether it's a drive across the country for vacation, a trip to the local burger joint to share a bag of fries, or a trip to the vet, most pet owners have their animals in the car at some point. The happy dog-face poking out from the passenger-side window is almost an iconic American image, after all. What happens to little Fido or FiFi if you're in an accident while they're with you, though?
The good news is that if a pet is injured or killed in a car accident, it is covered by most insurers, as part of your property damage liability insurance – pets, in this case – are considered just one more kind of property – but there are standard restrictions, and one of them is that the at-fault person is liable for the damages.
What this means is that if you're in an accident, and it's not your fault, the other driver's insurance will extend to any injury to your pet, but in most cases, if it is your fault, there is no coverage. This is because bodily injury coverage has been designated for humans only, by the insurance industry. ANY damage in an accident that isn't an injury to you or your human passengers is considered property damage.
What Do You Do to Protect Your Pet?
There are several options you have in protecting your dog or cat when they're in the car with you. They include:
- Seek out insurance companies with pet-specific auto insurance coverage. Progressive was the first to offer such a policy, but there may be others.
- Crate your animal in the car. The best way to protect your pet is to prevent an injury. Restricting your dog or cat to a travel crate or pet carrier in the car protects them from being launched across the car, as well as prevents them from distracting you. Moreover, in many states having a loose animal in a moving vehicle is illegal.
- Consider pet insurance. There are several pet insurance companies with inexpensive policies available to cover your pet in the case of accident or illness. While this won't keep your animal safe in the car, it will help offset any vet fees if your dog or cat is injured in a car crash.
For many of you, pets are part of the family. Just as you require your children to wear seatbelts, and carry them on your insurance policy, so, to, should you restrict your pets' movement in a car, and consider pet insurance in case of an accident.