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

Steven Matz
January 19, 2023 | Car Accident, Verdicts & Settlements

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. Car accidents with dogs or other pets are 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.

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; and
  • 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

German Shepard at a veterinarian office

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; or
  • 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.

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.

How Can I Protect My Dog From a Car Accident?

Three greyhounds inside a crate

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.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

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