Those of us who have pets at home know that they are more than just animals or friendly, non-judgmental creatures that serve as companions. We often treat and treasure them as family members. They travel with us, whether it’s a short drive to the supermarket, to the park or on a vacation. And just like us, pets are also susceptible to suffer serious injuries in car accidents or pedestrian accidents. If your pet does suffer major injuries in an auto accident, the cost of providing medical care can be significant.
Most pet owners do not have health insurance for their animals. The question that then arises is whether pet owners can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver just as they would for themselves. What are your legal rights and options if your pet is injured in an auto accident? Can you force the other party to pay for your pet’s medical care? The answer to those questions, as with any personal injury case, depends on the nature and circumstances of the accident.
First of all, it’s important to understand that animals don’t have the same stature in our court system as humans do. So, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of your pet. However, the law views animals as property. So, just as you seek compensation for property damage such as vehicle damage, you could seek reimbursement for your pet’s medical care and other related losses. You may also seek compensation for the emotional distress that your pet’s loss has caused, if your pet died in an auto accident.
As far as seeking damages for your pet’s injuries are concerned, the procedure is more or less similar to other personal injury or property damage cases. As the plaintiff, you must prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident, that your pet suffered as a result of the driver’s negligence and that these injuries led to damages such as medical expenses or income lost as a result of taking time off work to care for your pet. It is important to understand that California is a comparative negligence state. What this means is that depending on the degree to which you were at fault for the accident, the court might reduce your damages.
There are actions you can take after a car accident to help ensure that you receive compensation for your pet’s injuries. First, make sure you attend to your pet’s welfare by taking it to a veterinarian and seeking appropriate medical care. Collect as much evidence as possible from the scene including photographs of the accident scene and your pet’s injuries. Request the staff at the vet’s office to take more photos, if possible. This type of evidence could prove extremely valuable when you file your personal injury claim.
If your pet dies, you may be able to seek compensation for your emotional loss as well. Be sure to get a certificate from your vet about the animal’s cause of death. An experienced Orange County car accident lawyer will be able to help you secure fair and full compensation for all your losses, including those relating to your pet.