What do I do if my Pet was Injured in a Car Accident?

beagle dog traveling inside a car concept.

No two car accidents are the same. If your furry loved one was injured in an accident, then you likely have some very specific questions as to how to take care of them. While the general principles might be the same as in other accidents involving injuries, things get a little more complicated if your pet is involved.

Call the Police

As with any motor vehicle accident, the first thing you need to do is call the police right away. They must make a police report to identify the facts of the crash and all parties involved. Some departments won’t offer to send an officer on the scene if the dispatcher gets the idea that the accent isn’t severe, so it’s your job to advocate for yourself and make sure an officer comes to document what happened.

While every department has different internal policies, most require the officers to make a formal police report if there is mild to moderate property damage, anyone involved in the crash is injured, if one of the parties is being disruptive or aggressive towards the other, or if criminal charges or citations are issued.

Get Medical Attention for Your Pet

If your pet has urgent injuries, take them to their vet or animal hospital right away. Unfortunately, unlike medical facilities, most veterinarian practices require payment ahead of time. Be prepared to pay for any medical treatment and save any receipts to submit a claim to the insurance carrier. A lot of veterinary practices allow for payment plans if the treatment required is costly, make sure to discuss those options with your provider.

Something to consider if you’re reading this before an accident has happened, pet insurance is readily available for a nominal cost – often just a few dollars a month. Pet insurance can help cover high, unexpected veterinarian costs in the event of an accident or other need that might come up.

Open an Insurance Claim

If you were not injured in the crash and the only damages sustained in the accident are to the vehicle and your pet, then you won’t likely need an accident attorney. Most accident attorneys won’t represent clients without bodily injuries because then they’d have to charge clients a retainer and hourly fee for their services instead of working under a contingency fee contract.

Without an attorney, you need to call the insurance company for the other driver to open a claim. They will most likely take a recorded statement over the phone in which they will discuss the accident, the damages to your vehicle, and anything inside, and they will confirm whether or not you suffered bodily injuries in the crash.

Be careful here! Sometimes injuries can take a day or two after the accident to manifest because your adrenaline is pumping, and it can take some time for your body to calm down enough to take stock of what’s going on. If you give a recorded statement the day of or just following the accident, be open and honest about any stiffness, soreness, or other symptoms that you might be feeling even if you have not received medical attention yet. It’s better to have that notated in their file and never need treatment, than if you decide a week later that you do need medical care but you already told him that you were not injured.

After you’ve given your statement, they will likely get a similar statement from the other driver and make sure that the policy is correct on that vehicle for that driver. If coverage and liability are accepted, then they will send someone to inspect your vehicle and give you an estimate of the repair as needed. Don’t worry if the body shop finds more damage than what’s covered in the initial estimate. The body shop will send a supplement to the insurance company to get more money for the added repairs.

The Bad News…

In Texas, pets are considered property. So any medical bills for your furry family member will be submitted and evaluated along with the repairs to the vehicle. If the absolute worst happens, and your pet passes away because of an injury sustained in the crash then the insurance company will likely only pay for the replacement value of the animal. As pet owners ourselves, we know how infuriating and insulting an offer like that will feel. Unfortunately, that is where the law stands today.

Call an Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident and you have any questions about your rights, call an accident attorney right away to discuss your case. Most, if not all, offer free consultations so there is no cost to you to get those questions answered!