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What to Do if Your Pet is Injured in a Car Crash

bigstock-Small-dog-maltese-in-a-car-wit-136098791-300x200Only 16 percent of dog and cat owners say they use safety restraints when driving. Using proper safety restraints can protect your furry friends as well as you and any passengers in the vehicle.

According to the Center for Pet Safety (CPS), some types of pet restraints performed terribly during vehicle crash tests and are not very reliable. The worst products are plastic pet crates because the plastic tends to splinter into sharp pieces during a collision. During crash tests, dummy pets in plastic crates were ejected through the crate’s flimsy walls.

During a car accident, a dog or cat that is unrestrained can be flung forward and may injure fellow passengers or even go through the windshield of a vehicle. There are ways to help make your pets feel comfortable when traveling while also keeping them safely restrained. A pet with appropriate protection will not be a distraction for a driver while on the road.

Common Pet Restraints

When picking out a pet restraint, the type of device that is appropriate depends on the size and weight of the animal. What might be appropriate for a small cat may be unsuitable for a 70-pound dog.

Pet Carriers and Crates – Pet crates work best for cats and small dogs that weigh less than 15 lbs. They should be made of a material other than plastic. A carrier that attaches to any car seat belt during your ride will restrain your pet safely. You can also attach the harness or collar to the carrier’s inside for additional security.

Dog Booster Seats – These booster seats take the form of a comfy box, which is positioned above the car seat by arranging the seat belt. The booster seat will elevate the dog so that he or she can see out the window without leaning out the window. To keep the dog from jumping out, you can also attach a harness.

Harnesses – These restraints are designed to fit around the pet’s neck and chest, which spreads out the force of a potential impact. Harnesses have tethering straps that anchor them into the car’s seat belt points. A three-point fixing system that holds all parts of your pet’s body is ideal since this type of harness will secure the pet to the seat. For larger dogs, a harness that attaches to the back seat is recommended.

Barriers – Barriers can range from mesh that is secured with loops to metal grill barriers. Metal grills that secure the dog in the back of the car or SUV are more effective.

Car Safety Tips for Pet Owners

The following tips can help pet owners keep their beloved pets safer during trips:

  • Take your pet on shorter drives to avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety and help the animal get used to car travel before taking them on an extended vacation.
  • Be sure that all ID tags and microchip information have your current contact information, in case you and your pet become separated or injured.
  • Always properly restrain or crate your pets inside of your vehicle while driving.
  • Never allow pets to sit on your lap or stay in the front seat while you drive. This may be illegal in some states.
  • Never allow pets to stick their heads or bodies out of the car. Most dogs love to stick their heads out open windows, but wind and debris can seriously injure your pet, not to mention what would happen if you are in a car accident.
  • Pets should not be allowed in the bed of a pickup truck. The animal may be ejected if the truck crashes. Several pets die in crashes each year because they were riding in truck beds and not restrained.
  • Do not leash your pet inside of the bed of a truck. The hot sun can heat the floor of a truck bed enough to burn your pet or expose them to heatstroke.
  • Don’t leash your pet to the inside of the car as a restraint. They could strangle themselves in the vehicle, either when unattended or in a collision.
  • Never leave pets unattended inside a parked vehicle, even for a short time. Even with the windows cracked, the temperatures inside a car heat up fast during the summer month and cause an animal to suffer heat stroke.

What to Do If Your Pet Is with You or Injured in a Car Crash

If you have been in a car accident that has injured or killed your pet, a loss like this can be considered part of an insurance claim. Your pet’s injury can be viewed as property damage. If a negligent driver caused your accident, you could seek compensation for your own medical costs and for your injured pet’s vet expenses.

If your pet is killed, you can receive compensation equal to what would be required to replace your pet. If your pet was a prize-winning show animal, you could seek compensation through an accident claim. The loss of a service animal would also qualify for additional compensation.

If you are a victim in a car accident and another driver had a pet in his or her vehicle, you need to investigate whether the driver’s pet was a distraction and caused the accident. In some states, it is illegal for a pet to be unrestrained in a vehicle.

Contact Our Lawyers Now

If you and your pet have been injured in an accident caused by another motorist, you need a personal injury attorney who can make a strong case to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact an experienced attorney at Reyes Browne Reilley for a free consultation about your injury claim.

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