Riding In Cars with Pets: The Low Down On Accidents, Distractions, and Auto Insurance

Who covers Fido’s vet bills in the event of an accident? We delve into auto insurance and pet insurance to determine how pup is protected.

There are few things cuter than a dog hanging its head out the window of a car driving down a sunny street. Many Canadians don’t think twice about bringing pets along for the ride especially now that the weather is getting warmer, but have you ever taken a moment to consider if your pup is protected? If you were to get in an accident, have you thought about who would foot your pup’s vet bills?

Auto insurance companies in Canada do not consider pets occupants and thus pets are not covered under your car insurance policy as any other passenger would be. And even pet insurance can be tricky, especially if you are found to be at fault in the accident. There are ways insurance can protect your pets in the event of an accident though, but first, the best protection is prevention.

Preventing Pet Distractions and Restraining Your Pet

Pets can be distractions in the car--they can get rowdy and hyper, demand attention and love, and interfere with your ability to stay focused on the road.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by AAA and Kurgo, nearly 60 per cent of respondents had driven with their dog at least once a month throughout the previous year. Of those surveyed, 29 per cent admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving, and 65 per cent admitted to engaging in at least one potentially distracting activity while driving that involved their dog directly. These distractions included petting the dog (52 per cent), physically restricting the dog’s movement or holding the dog in place (23 per cent), and reaching into the backseat to interact with their dog (18 per cent). Three per cent even admitted to taking photos of their dog while driving.

While 83 per cent of respondents agreed that unrestrained dogs can be dangerous in a car, only 16 per cent use some form of restraint in the vehicle.

Unrestrained dogs or pets can get seriously injured or even killed in an accident. Front airbag systems can also be deadly, just as they are with small children. Beyond this, an unrestrained dog can exert hundreds of pounds of force, turning them into a hazard to the car’s occupants.

If you don’t currently use some sort of restraining device now is the time to consider it. Of the respondents surveyed, most use a pet harness/safety belt, while others prefer hard-sided pet travel crates, pet vehicle seats, vehicle barriers, or soft travel crates.

Taking measures to protect your pet in the event of a car accident will likely help your insurance claim even if you are at fault.

Car Crashes and Auto Insurance

Auto insurance does not typically cover pet-related claims, but there are some exceptions.

“If you are at fault in a crash and, as a result your pet is injured, you could not make a claim under your own car insurance for injuries to your pet. However, if another motorist is at fault, then you may have the basis for a third-party tort claim against the at-fault motorist, in which you could try to recover your expenses to cover the pet’s vet and medication bills due to the car crash,” an ICBC spokesperson said in an article that appeared in the Globe & Mail.

Car Crashes and Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can protect you financially in the event of a car accident for your pet’s vet bills. Many companies offer different forms of pet insurance as well as tiered policies.

“You have to carefully check the wording on pet insurance because sometimes, if it’s perceived that the cause was the owner, so for example an at-fault accident, if you’re actually the one causing the injuries, then it might be not covered. Depending on the pet insurance policy you buy, you need to understand that part of it,” said Kanetix’s Janine White in the same Globe article.

Understanding your policy is crucial to protecting you and your pet. Know what is and isn’t covered, and if you have any questions, be sure to speak with your provider.

Compare Pet Insurance

Like home insurance and car insurance, pet insurance rates differ by the company and the policy. You’re going to want to compare plans and rates to find the insurance policy that protects your pup and your budget. Compare pet insurance rates today to find the plan that’s right for you and fido.