Will Car Insurance Pay for Vet Costs If You Hit a Dog?

Last Updated on January 28, 2020

Car insurance can protect you against liability, covering the medical bills of anyone you injure on the road. You may be wondering, however, if car insurance extends to pets as well.

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about car insurance and pets, including whether car insurance covers vet costs if you hit a dog.

Will Car Insurance Pay for Vet Costs If You Hit a Dog?

First Steps to Take After Hitting a Dog

Hitting a dog is distressing, to say the least. Few drivers know how to care for an injured dog. Wounded animals can be unpredictable. A wounded dog is scared and in distress. Unless you’re familiar with the dog, you should never try to move an injured dog, as you could do more harm to the dog or yourself.

If you hit the dog in a busy road and the dog needs to be moved, then placing a blanket or jacket over the injured dog can give you some added protection – at least enough to move the dog away from traffic.

Other steps to take after hitting a dog with your car include:

  • Call the police or animal control. Wait for professional help to arrive. Never just drive off and leave the injured dog in the road. It’s not only cruel: it could also expose you to legal trouble.
  • If you see a collar on the dog and can safely reach it, then check for the name of the owner or a contact number. Call the owner. They may be nearby.
  • If you have to move the dog, first try to restrain the dog in some way. Wrap a blanket or jacket around the dog.

Are Veterinary Care Costs Covered by Car Insurance?

Veterinary care costs can quickly add up. But if you hit a dog while driving, then who pays the veterinary bills?

Typically, the dog’s owner is responsible for covering all expenses of that treatment. The dog’s owner is also responsible for choosing the course of treatment for the dog.

However, if the owner cannot be located, then the veterinary care costs may fall upon the person who brought the dog to the vet. For that reason, it’s better to call animal control or the police after hitting a dog.

The only exception to this rule is if you were driving negligently or hit the dog on purpose. If you were drunk driving and rolled up onto the sidewalk, for example, or if you swerved to hit a dog you didn’t like, then you may be liable for the dog’s vet bills.

This is different from the way human medical bills are handled by car insurance. Car insurance companies will cover medical expenses for humans injured in a car accident.

If you hit a pedestrian with your vehicle, for example, then your liability insurance should cover that pedestrian’s medical bills. The same coverage does not typically extend to pets.

When Are Veterinary Costs Covered By Car Insurance?

If you were not driving negligently and did not hit the dog intentionally, then it’s unlikely that you are liable for the dog’s veterinary care costs.

However, if you were driving negligently or did hit the dog intentionally, then you may be liable for any damages you caused – including any vet bills paid by the dog’s owner.

What About My Car Repair Costs?

After hitting a dog, there may be damage to your own vehicle that needs to be repaired.

This damage should be covered under your comprehensive car insurance coverage – similar to what would happen if you hit a deer or other animal on the road.

If the animal is a dog (or any household pet), however, then your insurance company will handle things differently on their end of things. The insurance company may subrogate the claim, which means they’ll approach the dog’s owner and request compensation for the repair costs.

If the dog’s owner is located, then you may not require comprehensive coverage to repair your vehicle. You may not even have to pay your deductible. Instead, if the dog’s owner was negligent, then that person’s homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the claim under liability coverage.

If the dog’s owner cannot be located, then you should be able to make a claim under your comprehensive coverage without much issue. You will, however, have to pay your comprehensive coverage deductible.

What Happens If My Dog is Injured While Riding in My Vehicle?

Your dog may get injured when riding in your vehicle during an accident. In this situation, you could be on the hook for veterinary expenses. Or, the at-fault driver may be on the hook.

Let’s say another driver is at-fault for the accident. You’re driving with your dog in the car. Another driver hits your vehicle at an intersection and is 100% at fault for the accident. Your dog is injured and requires $2,000 of veterinary treatment. In this situation, the other driver’s insurer may be obligated to pay the vet bills. The other driver was negligent and caused the accident, so the other driver is required to make things whole again.

Let’s say that you are at fault for the accident. You hit another car at the intersection and you are 100% at fault. Your dog is injured and requires $1,500 of treatment at the vet. In this situation, you are required to pay the vet costs on your own. You are personally liable for covering your dog’s injuries because you caused the accident.

What Happens If I Hit My Own Dog?

If you hit your own dog, then your insurance company could consider this an at-fault accident. This would lead to a collision coverage claim.

In this situation, your insurer will cover repairs to your own vehicle with your collision coverage. However, it’s unlikely that your car insurance company would cover your veterinary care costs.

Different insurance companies handle these claims in different ways. Talk to your insurer to determine how they may handle your claim process.

Some Car Insurance Companies Offer Supplemental Coverage for Pets

Some car insurance companies now offer pet-related coverage. While some companies charge extra for this coverage, other insurers include this coverage for free.

Progressive has pet injury coverage that pays up to $1,000 towards vet bills, for example, and this coverage is available under your collision insurance at no additional cost.

Other insurance companies may offer pet insurance at an added cost. You pay slightly higher premiums per month in exchange for pet coverage.

Final Word

Hitting a dog is a stressful experience. However, insurance companies have well-established procedures for handling dog-related accident claims.

If the dog was outside the vehicle at the time of the accident, then it’s generally the responsibility of the dog’s owner to cover veterinary bills. However, if you were driving negligently or deliberately hit the dog, then you may be liable for any damages you caused.

Meanwhile, if the dog was inside your vehicle at the time of the accident, then the at-fault driver (whether it’s you or the other driver) should be liable for any vet bills.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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