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Pets and Car Accidents: Is My Dog Covered by Car Insurance?

Americans love taking their pets everywhere. They enjoy taking their furry travel companions with them to visit dog parks, pet stores and walking trails. They bring them along on road trips to their favorite beaches, camping grounds and national parks. Unfortunately, this places pets at a greater risk of getting injuries in a car crash.

According to the American Automobile Association, almost 80 percent of dog owners drive in a vehicle with their fur babies. Only 16 percent transport their dogs using proper safety restraints. Eighty percent of dogs were unrestrained, meaning they were most likely injured in crashes.

Some drivers believe that their auto insurance will cover not only their personal injuries; they believe they'll cover the veterinary expenses of their beloved fur babies too. But is this true?

In this article, we'll discuss which auto insurance plans offer coverage for pet expenses after a crash. We'll also tell you which plans and policies will provide coverage for your canine or feline friend.

Does My Auto Insurance Policy Cover Pet Medical Expenses After a Car Crash?

Pet injury coverage pays for your dog or cat's veterinary bills if they are injured in a crash while traveling in your car.

Auto insurance carriers handle pet-related claims differently based on their policy terms. Some insurers offer will coverage for animal companions; others don't.

It depends on your carrier, your auto insurance terms and the circumstances of the accident. Insurers who provide this coverage will do so at no extra expense to you. Others will require you to purchase an add-on.

If your auto insurance policy doesn't provide coverage, you can search for one that does by using SmartFinancial. Just enter your zip code to get started. Ask the agent if the comprehensive coverage or collision coverage they are offering will or will not cover your dog in case something happens.

What if You Have an Accident When Your Pet is in the Car?

How will an auto insurer handle accident-related medical expenses for your pet? We've provided two different scenarios for owners to consider?

Scenario One: You Were At-Fault

Did your pets ride along with you when crashed into another vehicle? If you're at fault for a crash, your insurance policy's liability coverage could pay for the other driver's property damage, vehicle damage and passenger injuries. If there was a dog in their car, it will pay for the vet bills of the dog's owner.

If your car insurance policy covers your pet's veterinary bills, it will do so under your collision coverage. Collision pays for damage to your vehicle and property. Although your fur baby is a beloved member of your family, an insurance company views them as your property.

Your auto insurer will mention pet medical coverage in its terms and conditions. If they don't, you must pay for their medical treatment from your pocket.

If your auto insurance company doesn't extend coverage for free to your pet, you can consider purchasing an endorsement for your collision or comprehensive coverage.

Some car insurance companies offer these endorsements for a cheap price or free. Speak to an insurance agent to learn if you can be covered by these plans.

Scenario Two: The Other Driver Was At-Fault

What happens if another driver crashes into your car when your pet is a passenger? As mentioned earlier, insurers view fur babies as property, so they provide coverage under your auto insurer's collision coverage.

Several insurers will automatically cover your pet under the collision portion of their auto insurance policies. They include ChubbErie and Metromile. Allstate and other companies provide stand-alone pet health care policies to protect their fur babies. You can purchase these at an additional fee.

You can also file a claim with the other person's car insurance. Their liability policy might pay for your fur baby's health care if they caused the crash. You can usually file a claim against their liability coverage to get reimbursed for your pet's veterinarian care.

Always keep the receipts of your crash no matter who is at fault.

Scenario Three: What if Your Dog is Hit by a Car?

Are you a pet owner? If so, you should list your pet on your homeowners or renters insurance. This step can offer liability protection if your dog is hit by a car after running onto the street.

This coverage will also pay for the damage your pet caused, even if you weren't present at the scene. The maximum amount that your home insurance will pay will range from $100,000 - $200,000.

Your homeowners insurance won't reimburse you for your pet's healthcare care if it's hit by a car. Homeowners insurance only handles damage to your home and incidents, like your dog biting someone, on your property.

It doesn't pay for your healthcare bills and it doesn't provide coverage for pets. Another thing to keep in mind: your home insurance and renter's policies sometimes exclude dog breeds they consider dangerous.

Some pet healthcare policies provide coverage for your dog or cat if it's hit by another driver's car.

Scenario Four - Will Collision or Comprehensive Coverage Insure Me if I Hit an Animal on the Street?

Did you hit a dog, cat, deer or another animal while driving? Your property damage is covered under your comprehensive insurance.

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How Much of My Pet Expenses Will My Car Insurance Cover?

It will depend on your carrier how much of your pet's accident-related expenses they will pay off. 

One insurer could pay out up to your policy's limits, while another will only pay a fraction. So, you will likely receive anywhere between $500 to $2,000 per pet, per crash, to cover their medical expenses. 

If your furry companion needs health care, this auto insurance coverage may not be enough to pay for your pet's screenings, rehabilitation or treatment.

Ideally, you'll have both pet insurance and auto insurance. You can buy this as an endorsement on your current plan, which will take care of your pet 100% when combined. Before you purchase a separate plan, speak with your car insurance agent. Find out if your auto insurance will cover crash-related costs for your pet.

If the crash was your fault, you won't receive coverage for your pet unless you have collision insurance. Your pet injury auto coverage will only pay if the other driver was at fault.

Get Insurance Coverage for Your Pet Before a Crash Happens

If your existing policy doesn't offer coverage for your animal companions, you can consider getting an add-on or an endorsement to your coverage. Some companies offer pet injury coverage free when it is added to existing collision coverage.

You can also consider regular pet health insurance plans. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), 20 companies provide pet insurance in North America. Nationwide was the very first insurer to offer these types of insurance plans. It is the country's top writer of pet coverage.

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average premiums for this insurance in 2020 were:

Pet A&I – Accident & Illness AO – Accident Only

Dog

  • Annual: $594.15
  • Monthly: $49.51
  • Annual: $218.13
  • Monthly: $18.17

Cat

  • Annual: $341.81
  • Monthly: $28.48
  • Annual: $131.61
  • Monthly: $11.13

If you need a national auto insurer that offers pet coverage, you can search for one using SmartFinancial. Just enter your zip code here to get started.

Will Pet Health Insurance Cover Injuries from a Car Accident?

It depends on the carrier. Vet bills can cost thousands of dollars after a crash. Some stand-alone policies will cover your pet's injuries from a car crash if they were riding in your vehicle.

This insurance will pay for their medical expenses if a car hits them while they walking on the road. Other policies do not provide coverage for accidents.

  • Regular pet health insurance plans cover domestic animals like dogs or cats. These plans usually reimburse your veterinary costs if your furry friend becomes sick. Others will pay for your pet if they get into a crash.

  • Exotic pet coverage plans cover other animals, such as gerbils, hamsters, frogs or parrots. 

Most insurance doesn't pay for your fur baby's routine or preventative care, such as checkups and rabies shots, unless they are routine care plans. These plans don't provide pet coverage for pre-existing conditions. Call a car insurance agent to learn what each plan provides.

What Do Regular Pet Insurance Plans Cover?

Stand-alone policies only pay for the following expenses:

  • Accidents – Some insurance companies will provide coverage for your dog or cat when it suffers injuries resulting from a car accident.

  • Injuries – This insurance policy may covers your dog or cat's broken legs, cuts, lacerations, ingestion of poisons and swallowed foreign objects.

  • Chronic and Recurring Conditions – Some plans cover arthritis, allergies, skin and ear infections, diabetes and hypothyroidism.

  • Hereditary and Congenital Conditions – Hip and elbow dysplasia, glaucoma, epilepsy, luxating patella and cherry eye.

  • Cancer – Some insurance may cover chemotherapy and other services to treat animal companions with cancer.

  • Medications – You can get reimbursed for medications to treat your pet's condition.

  • Lab work and Diagnostic Tests – These include blood work, X-rays and MRIs

  • Routine Care – Some policies (not all) cover preventative procedures like annual exams, vaccinations, blood work and dental care for an extra charge.

What Types of Pet Insurance Plans Are Available on the Market?

There are five types of pet coverage plans available on the market:

  • Accident-Only Plans – Under these policies, the coverage kicks in when your pet is injured in a crash. Some policies also cover incidents like motor vehicle accidents, the ingestion of foreign objects or poisonings. Other plans pay for doctor and nurse exams, specialist fees, laboratory tests, emergency care and hospitalization, MRIs, physical therapy, laparoscopies and surgeries. Reimbursement fees can range from 90,80, or 70 percent for eligible conditions after meeting your deductible.

  • Accident and Illness Plans – These are the most popular pet insurance plans. They cover treatments for accidents and illnesses, infections, allergies, cancer and digestive problems.

  • Insurance and Embedded Wellness – These are comprehensive plans that cover accidents and illnesses. They also pay for preventative care for heartworms, vaccinations, flea and tick medications, dental care and dietary consults. Some pay for cremation and burial expenses.

  • Routine Care – This plan provides preventative coverage, usually as an optional add-on. They cover extras such s dental cleaning, blood work and annual wellness checkups. Only a limited number of insurers offer routine health care plans for pets.

  • Endorsements – These are riders on your pet coverage plan that may pay for chronic illnesses or wellness protection. Wellness plans are usually add-on only.

When searching for a pet insurance plan, always contact the carrier to learn what their policy covers. Ask if they specifically pay for the medical expenses of injured pets who ride in vehicles.

Is My Pet Eligible for a Health Insurance Policy?

Most insurance companies have age and health restrictions before they'll allow you to sign up your animal companion for a health insurance policy.

To qualify for coverage, some policies require felines or canines to meet certain age restrictions. They must be under 14 years old in some cases. Others must be disease-free. They cannot have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, Cushing's disease, FeLV/FIV or Addison Disease.

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What Are the Laws Surrounding Pets in Cars?

The American Automobile Association (AAA) surveyed pet owners. The organization released a report that found: 

  • 80% of dog owners drive with their animals in the car 
  • 85% admitted to driving with their fur babies unrestrained in their vehicles
  • 56% of owners had brought their dogs with them during their trips, according to a 2011 AAA report. 

It's life-threatening for animals and other drivers on the road if you do not properly restrain pets while driving. Several states have laws on the books regarding animals in cars. 

  • Several states forbid people from driving with unrestrained dogs or cats in their cars. Hawaii law prohibits people from driving with feline or canine companions on their laps. Oregon may also enact a similar law. 

  • It is illegal for drivers to have unrestrained dogs or cats on their laps in the following states: Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Washington State, Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin. Persons in these states can receive a distracted driving citation if caught. For instance, Massachusetts and Minnesota pet owners must restrain their dogs riding on truck beds, or they'll get fined.

  • Seventeen states forbid people from leaving dogs or cats in a vehicle. They include Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Tennessee and West Virginia. These conditions typically have to endanger the animal's life. 

For example, New Jersey allows Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officers to stop drivers that improperly transport dogs and cats. In the state, they require you to use seat belts and harnesses to restrain your pet. 

If a dog isn't secured in a crate within a moving vehicle, drivers can pay a fine of $250 to $1000. In Rhode Island, you must restrain your pet and the law carries a fine of up to $200. 

Regardless of what current pet laws are on the books, police officers can still charge you with distracted driving if you have a pet on your lap.

The fact is that your dog doesn't understand how serious a car ride can be and can easily distract you, so keep him/her in the back seat at all times, preferably restrained. 

Steps To File a Claim After an Accident with a Pet in the Car

Most drivers experience shock after a car crash, especially if their beloved pets were in the vehicle. They are concerned not only about treating their passengers' wounds, but ensuring their four-legged friends receive medical care, too. These veterinary fees can add up, especially when 

No one wants to get into a crash, but you can take some steps to ensure your insurance company pays for your pet's medical expenses.

  1. Keep all receipts from your pet's vet visits, surgeries, medications and anything related to the crash. If you don't keep the proper paperwork, you'll have a hard time getting reimbursed for these expenses.
  2. Next, you'll have to file a claim for the accident. This step is no different from filing a regular insurance one, except that you'll submit copies of medical records for a dog, instead of a person.
  3. Consider your pet's value. What if the unthinkable happens and your beloved pet dies? The saddest part is most insurers will ask you to estimate your pet's market value if it passes away from its accident-related injuries.

Even though our pets provide us with immeasurable love and support, insurance carriers view pets as their owner's property.

If you're not at fault, you may have to sue for the market value of your pet. Some courts will award punitive damages based on the sentimental value and emotional distress of losing a pet. 

Estimating your pet's value is the only way you will receive compensation for your loss. Of course, the insurer may deny you what you think is a reasonable amount. You always have the option of taking the matter to small claims court.

Pet Travel Safety Tips

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty has offered several tips to help keep your pets safe during your next road trip.

  • Help your pet become ready for the road. Get your furry companion used to traveling on the road by taking it on a short series of trips in your vehicle. Gradually increase the time you spend in the car. If you're traveling across state lines, make sure to bring your pet's rabies and vaccination records. Some law enforcement officials require this proof when you cross into their state.

  • Secure your pet in its carrier. Place your furry companion within a crate that has good ventilation when riding on the road. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up, lie down or turn around inside. Ensure your pet's crate should be secure so it won't slide or shift. Additionally, don't allow any uncrated pet to put its head outside of the window. Keep your furry companion in the back seat with a harness attached to a seat belt.

  • Prepare a travel kit for your pet. Before you hit the road, bring items that will help your pet relax on the road. Your pet travel kits should include your food, bowl, leashes, a waste scoop, plastic bags and grooming supplies. Other items are medication, first-aid kits, treats, travel documents and favorite toys. Additionally, take enough water to hydrate your pet, and don't feed your pet inside a moving vehicle. Fee your pet a light meal three hours before you leave home.

Never leave your pet alone in a parked car on a hot day, even when the windows are open because they can have a heatstroke.

If you're asking, Is my dog covered by car insurance, you want a new auto insurance policy with the coverages to protect your pet(s). Start comparing rates using SmartFinancial by entering your zip code below to get started.

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