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Can You Receive Damages for an Injured Pet?

Published on Sep 26, 2019 at 10:59 am in Auto Safety.

Vet holding stethoscope to puppy

When you’re in the car, your pet could get injured from as little as an abrupt stop when they are not restrained. This could cause serious injuries to your pet and other passengers depending where your pet lands. When another car is involved, the situation becomes even more dangerous. If a car accident causes a window to break or a door to open, a pet could be thrown from the vehicle. Or worse, they could escape and run into oncoming traffic.

An unrestrained pet increases the risk of an accident because it enables distracted driving. That risk is boosted even higher if the pet is in your lap, which puts the pet in further danger from the air bag. Restraining your pet in the back seat is the best way to keep them safe as well as restrain yourself from distraction. If you get into an accident because your pet distracted you, it would be your fault and you wouldn’t be able to receive damages. But what about when the accident wasn’t your fault?

Damages You Can Receive for an Injured Pet

If a car accident wasn’t your fault and your pet got injured in the crash, what can you do about it? In the eyes of the law, a pet is considered personal property. As heartless as that might sound, it means that any laws that apply to your personal objects apply to your pet. If your pet is injured or killed by someone’s negligence, you could receive compensation for the market value of the animal and any economic damages. Here’s what that could mean:

  • Market value. The price you paid for your pet, or the running price for your pet’s breed, is considered its market value. Any special training you paid for your pet to receive, like obedience training, would also fall under this category.
  • Economic damages. These would include veterinary costs a pet requires for the injuries incurred, as well as long term medication or physical therapy needed because of the accident.

In the state of South Carolina, the owner must be present when the pet is injured in order to make a claim for the owner’s emotional suffering. If you were in the car with your pet when the accident occurred, then you could sue for any emotional suffering you went through because of your pet’s injury. Other than that, there’s not much else you can receive compensation for when it comes to a pet injury from a car accident.

Precautions You Can Take While Driving with Your Pet

South Carolina is currently a state where a pet does not have to be harnessed in the car. Even though it is not required by law, a pet should never ride in the front seat or in the driver’s lap. The safest option for you and your pet is for them to be properly restrained in the back seat. There are harnesses and carriers you can buy that get strapped to seat belts so that they cannot move freely around the vehicle. This helps if there is an impact because then they cannot go flying through the car. Restraints also keep a pet from fleeing the vehicle after an accident, which can be just as deadly as any impact in the car.

Other than a harness for the back seat, it’s important to limit your time distracted by your pet while driving to reduce the risk of an accident. Staying focused on the road is the best thing you can do for you and your pet.

Seeing your pet in serious pain is a helpless feeling, especially after a car accident that you didn’t cause. Depending on the scenario, you could potentially receive compensation for the damages. Contact us and we can figure out how to help while both you and your pet recover.

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