With all the love and time we put into our pets, it’s easy to see them as essential family members. We know if they’re happy or sad, and we know the subtle ways they communicate. They become so important to us, that we plan our lives around them. We may turn down an apartment that doesn’t allow pets or a house with no backyard.
That’s why we take such good care of them when we drive. We give them pads to lay on and special harnesses that buckle into seatbelts. Tragically, traffic accidents still happen, and our pets can be hurt in the process.
When this happens, you are put in a legal and emotional bind. On one hand, pets are regarded as property, and the law tends to treat them as such. On the other, you care deeply for this furry family member, and you’ll do anything to help them get better.
What happens when your pets are hurt in a car accident? What options do you have, and can you receive financial compensation for their injuries? In this article, we will explore the issue of pets in car accidents, and we will offer solutions that can help get them the treatment they need.
Pets as Property
Legally, a pet has none of the rights we reserved for humans. It is, by all standards, property. If your pet is injured in an accident, you can receive compensation only concerning its status as property.
In Arizona, the bare minimum insurance grants $25,000 for property damage. Arizona is a no-fault state, meaning you can receive benefits from your insurer regardless of who caused the accident. In the best-case scenarios, you could claim that your animal’s injuries count as property damage, and you could receive payment for veterinary bills.
This, however, will not always be the case. First of all, you may need to make tough choices between your vehicle and your pet. Imagine your car is totaled, and your dog is hurt. You love your dog dearly, but you need your car for daily life. This puts you in a bind if your car repairs and veterinary bills go beyond your insurance benefits.
This also assumes that the insurer cooperates. Many insurance companies offer no coverage for pets. Those that do often cover only the “market price” for your animal. This may be the amount of money you paid to adopt your pet and no more. It could also fluctuate depending on the age and health of the animal. If you have a senior dog, for example, the insurer could claim that the market price for this “property” is low, and they could compensate you accordingly.
Furthermore, many insurance companies cover only dogs and cats. Your beloved miniature pig or exotic reptile could be left out.
If you’re having trouble covering your vet bills, reach out to a lawyer. They may be able to negotiate with the insurance company for a better deal.
Filing a Lawsuit
To cover your pet’s injuries, a civil lawsuit may be your only option. It may be possible to fold the cost of veterinary bills into a property claim and be compensated if you win. This might work, but the court could also be unsympathetic. They may regard your pet the same as they would any other property, granting you the minimum, market price value for your furry friend.
If this is the case, your attorney must focus the lawsuit on getting you as much compensation as possible. This is not for the purposes of “getting rich quick.” Instead, these high-value damages are intended to help you pay for your pet’s recovery.
Focusing on the degree of negligence in the accident could get you a higher amount of compensation. If your attorney can prove that the other driver acted willfully or with gross disregard, you may be entitled to more money. You can use this extra compensation to help care for your pet.
Similarly, your lawyer could focus on the pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. In a civil suit, you can be compensated for how much you suffered. Essentially, the more pain you experienced, and the longer you experienced it, the more money you could receive in pain and suffering damages.
Pain and suffering includes mental distress as well. If you can prove that the accident had a direct effect on your mental health, you could receive more money in the case. It may be possible to demonstrate that your pet’s injuries caused emotional distress, gaining you more in the settlement. Remember, however, that you are the focus of the claim. Discussing the accident’s impact on the animal may not help. You must demonstrate the impact your pet’s injuries had on your mental health.
If your pet was harmed by a negligent driver, and you aren’t sure of your options, reach out to our office for help. We can give you a free consultation, and we may be able to take on your case. You can fill out an online contact form or call us at (602) 483-6114.