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What To Do If You Were In A Car Accident With Your Pet

Key Takeaways:

  • There’s a significant risk of pets, especially dogs, being injured or killed in car accidents. It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 dogs die each year as a result of truck accidents.
  • To prevent pet injuries in car accidents, use crates, seat belts, or harnesses for pets in vehicles and avoid letting them stick their heads out of the window.
  • Visit a veterinarian as soon as possible for professional medical assessment and treatment after a pet-related car accident.
  • If a pet is injured in a car accident, it’s crucial to avoid chasing them into traffic, move out of traffic, and check for injuries using sight, touch, and sound.

Getting injured in a car wreck is stressful at best and traumatic at worst. Seeing your favorite furry friend injured makes the experience even more terrible. Currently, no outlet consistently collects statistics on how many pets die in car accidents each year. However, American Humane estimates that approximately 100,000 dogs are killed due to riding in pickup truck beds. The number killed in car crashes could be much higher. Being involved in car accidents with dogs or other pets is a terrifying ordeal. You could use someone on your side to fight for your rights. If you need help recovering compensation for your injuries, call the Michigan car accident lawyers at Matz Injury Law today.

What Should I Do If My Pet is Injured in a Car Accident?

If your pet has suffered injuries in a car accident, the following steps can help you protect your beloved friend and safeguard your legal rights.

1. Do Not Follow Your Dog Into Traffic

If your dog or other pet gets loose after the accident, your first instinct might be to go after them. Following your pet into traffic can put you and others in greater danger. As difficult as it might be, you should stay where it is safe.

2. Get Out Of Traffic

If you find yourself and your pet in a lane of traffic after an accident, get yourself and your pet somewhere safe as quickly as you can. At a minimum, get to the side of the road and out of the flow of traffic.

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3. Check for Injuries

Even a minor car accident could cause injuries to your pet. Once you are safe from traffic, check both yourself and your pet for injuries.

Your pet cannot tell you where they are hurt, of course, so you will have to use all of your senses:

  • Look for any signs of injuries, such as broken bones
  • Touch your pet — gently — to check for any sensitive areas
  • Listen to your pet to hear how they react to you, such as whimpering, growling, or silence.

Avoid talking to your pet in a “baby voice.” According to Arden Moore, the founder of Pet First Aid 4U, this kind of tone can actually increase stress or fear in dogs and other animals in this kind of situation. A scared pet might lash out at anyone, even their beloved human. Move slowly and deliberately as you check them for injuries. Moore recommends saying their name while you do this, along with something purposeful like “I’ve got this.”

4. Give First Aid

If your pet is injured, use whatever is available to cover wounds or immobilize limbs. Towels and plastic shopping bags can serve as makeshift first aid supplies. You can prepare in advance by keeping supplies like an extra leash and some water bottles in your car.

5. File a Police Report

You must file a report with the police department if your property damage exceeds $1,000. An injured pet would likely count as damage.

6. Visit a Veterinarian

As soon as possible, take your pet to a veterinarian. Depending on their injuries, you may need to take them to an emergency vet who specializes in critical care. The vet can provide necessary medical treatment and advise you of the cost.

7. Contact Your Insurance

You must notify your insurance company after a car accident if you intend to file a claim for damages. Under Michigan’s no-fault insurance law, you can recover compensation for property damage and other losses no matter who was at fault in the accident.

8. Call a Michigan Car Accident Lawyer

A car accident attorney can guide you through the process of filing an insurance claim. They can help you gather evidence, prepare a claim, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Was Injured in a Car Accident?

You can check for the signs of vehicular trauma in a dog, which may include the following:

  • Yelping or whimpering while walking or when touched
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Other abnormal behavior
  • Indications of shock, such as quick breathing, weak pulse, or cold extremities.

As soon as possible, take your dog to a veterinarian to check for injuries.

Who is Responsible if Your Dog Dies In A Car Accident?

If your dog was injured or killed by a vehicle in Michigan, you may have options for pursuing compensation. Most insurance companies classify pets as property, so your insurance may cover a portion of your vet bills. You will need to examine your policy closely to determine if this is true for you. Some insurance companies offer pet insurance to specially cover vet bills. If the other driver was at fault, you may be able to pursue damages against them for the economic impact of your pet’s injury. The only value Michigan law places on a pet is replacement value. This means that there will not be any compensation for the emotional toll the loss of a pet can take. Speak to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to learn more about your options.

Can Dogs Get Whiplash and Other Injuries?

Yes, dog whiplash is a possible result of a car accident. Signs that your dog’s neck is hurting could include the following:

  • Inability to turn their head to the side;
  • Muscles spasms in the neck;
  • Reluctance to go up or down stairs or get on or off furniture; and
  • Unusually slow walking.

What Are Other Common Injuries Pets Get in Car Accidents?

The following are some common injuries that pets may suffer in motor vehicle accidents:

Broken Bones

Broken or fractured bones can result from the physical trauma of an accident. They may require a cast or splint in order to heal. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to place screws or other hardware that can stabilize the bone.


Shallow or mild cuts may only need to be cleaned and bandaged. Deeper lacerations may require stitches. Pets must be sedated before a vet can stitch a wound.

Internal Bleeding

The injuries you cannot see are often the most dangerous. A veterinarian may have to perform surgery to determine the cause of internal bleeding and repair the damage.

Pulmonary Damage

Trauma to the chest area can result in a collapsed lung or excess fluid around the heart. These may require surgical intervention.

Abdominal Trauma

Injuries to a dog’s belly often require surgery to assess and repair the damage. This may include lacerations, hernias, and damage to organs like the spleen or liver.

2023 Statistics: Pet Injuries Due to Car Accidents

There is currently no statistical tracking of pet injuries in car accidents. However, there are several statistics that give us an indication of the regularity and severity of car accidents involving pets.

  • There were over 5.9 million car crashes in the U.S. in 2022.
  • Distracted driving was a factor in 11% of all crashes in 2022.
  • Approximately 66% of U.S. households own a pet in 2024.
  • Approximately 70% of pet owners who drive with their dog in the vehicle do not use safety restraints.
  • In the same survey, 40% of drivers admitted to driving recklessly because they had their dog in the car.
  • While studies show dogs have an 83.3% chance of surviving car accidents, they are often injured and require medical attention or hospitalization.
  • Vet bills from pet injuries can cost upwards of $5,000, possibly more if you have to take them to an emergency vet.

While it can be fun and sometimes necessary to bring your pet with you on the road, they can also distract you enough to cause a serious accident. If you need to drive with your pet, use safety restraints and don’t let them wander freely around the vehicle.

How Can I Protect My Dog From a Car Accident?

Michigan law does not require seat belts or other restraints for dogs in motor vehicles. You should still use them.

  • Keep dogs or cats in a crate lined with blankets in the car.
  • Use a seat belt or harness designed for dogs.
  • Do not let dogs stick their heads out the window while you are driving.
  • Add a barrier separating the back seat from the front.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Injuries to Pets?

Some insurance companies cover pets, but the benefits are usually rather limited. A car insurance policy would have a specific section called “pet insurance.” Michigan law does not require this kind of insurance, so the terms of a pet insurance policy can vary widely from one company to another.

A typical pet insurance policy might have a limit of $1,000 to $5,000. It would pay for vet bills and medications up to that limit. If the pet is killed in an accident, the policy would treat it as a form of property damage. It would pay for the replacement value of the pet, but not your non-economic damages for emotional anguish for the loss of your friend.

Your Furry Friends Deserve Compensation, Too

The personal injury attorneys at Matz Injury Law have many years of experience helping people in Michigan who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones, including pets, in motor vehicle accidents. Our law firm can help you recover what you deserve for your losses. Contact our firm today at 866-226-6833 or through our online contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do immediately if my pet is injured in a car accident?

If your pet is injured in a car accident, ensure your safety first by moving out of traffic. Then, check your pet for injuries without chasing them into traffic. Administer first aid if necessary and contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Are there specific steps to follow for legal and insurance purposes after a pet is injured in a car accident?

Yes. File a police report if property damage exceeds $1,000, notify your insurance company to file a claim, and consider consulting a car accident lawyer for assistance with the claim process.

Does auto insurance cover injuries to pets in car accidents?

Coverage varies by insurance company. Some policies include pet insurance with limited benefits, typically covering veterinary bills up to a certain amount. Check your policy for specific details.

How can I protect my pet from getting injured in a car accident?

Use safety measures like keeping your pet in a crate or using a seat belt/harness designed for pets. Avoid letting pets stick their heads out of the window and consider adding a barrier between the back and front seats.

What role do car accident lawyers play in cases involving pet injuries?

Car accident lawyers can help navigate the legal complexities of filing claims for pet injuries, negotiate with insurance companies, and ensure you receive fair compensation for veterinary bills and other related expenses.

Should I get pet insurance specifically for car accidents?

It depends on your circumstances and the frequency of traveling with your pet. Review your current auto and pet insurance policies to decide if additional coverage is necessary.