What To Do If You Hit a Dog With Your Car – Insurance Claims and Liability

Hitting an animal while driving is a traumatic experience, even if you are not at fault. When a dog is the victim, emotions tend to run high. As upsetting as the situation is, it’s important to know how to handle it legally and what insurance will cover. This article provides a comprehensive guide on what to do if you hit a dog with your car, including how to handle insurance claims and who is liable for damages and injuries.

Stop Immediately and Check on the Dog

If you strike a dog with your vehicle, the first thing you should do is stop right away. Never leave the scene of an accident involving an injured animal. Most states legally require drivers to stop when they hit domestic animals.

  • Check if the dog is alive and try to keep it calm and comfortable. Look for a collar and tags that may help identify the owner.

  • If the dog is deceased, move it off the roadway if you can do so safely.

  • Call the police or animal control to report the incident so the animal can be picked up if needed.

  • Try to gather any identifying information, like photos of the dog, collar tags, location, etc. This can help track the owner.

  • Do not try to catch or move an unknown aggressive injured animal. Wait for authorities if needed.

Leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death of an animal can potentially lead to criminal charges in most states. Staying shows you are making a reasonable effort to help the animal.

Exchange Information With the Dog Owner

If the owner is present or arrives shortly after, exchange contact and insurance information. Get their name, address, phone number, and insurance details.

  • Express empathy about their pet, but don’t admit fault or make any statements about covering damages. Just exchange info.

  • Ask for their vet’s contact information in case you need to pay for immediate treatment.

  • Take photos documenting any injuries to the dog and damage to your vehicle.

  • File a report with the police or animal control if they show up.

Having all the relevant information will make the insurance claim process smoother if the owner decides to pursue damages or veterinary reimbursement.

Report the Incident to Your Insurance Company

Notify your car insurance provider about the accident as soon as possible. Provide details like the date, time, location, dog breed, and contact information for the owner if available.

  • Your insurance will need a statement from you explaining what happened. Be as accurate and detailed as possible.

  • If police were called, get a copy of the accident report to give to your insurer.

  • Send your insurance company any evidence you gathered like photos, vet invoices if you paid any, and contact info for the dog owner.

Promptly reporting the incident and providing documentation shows you are cooperating with the investigation and helps resolve claims faster.

What Your Car Insurance Usually Covers

  • Medical bills – Your liability insurance can pay for immediate vet treatment if you chose to take the dog for care yourself. Policies differ, but injured animal claims are often covered.

  • Your vehicle repairs – Comprehensive coverage will pay for damage to your car from hitting animals. Collision coverage also applies if the accident was your fault.

  • Injuries to passengers – If any passengers in your car were injured, your liability coverage will pay their medical bills.

  • Lawsuits – If the owner sues for veterinary costs, property damage, emotional distress, etc., your liability insurance provides legal defense and settlement payments up to your policy limits.

Deductibles – For your own car repairs, you will likely need to pay your collision or comprehensive deductible. Injuries and other claims covered under liability should be paid by your insurer without a deductible.

Determining Fault and Legal Liability

The general rule is that pet owners are liable for damages and injuries caused by their animals. So the dog owner will likely be deemed at-fault if all precautions were taken by the driver.

You may be judged partially or fully liable if any of the following are true:

  • You were speeding, texting, or otherwise driving negligently at the time of the accident.

  • Witnesses prove you did not attempt to brake or stop.

  • You fled the scene without reporting the incident.

  • The dog was leashed and supervised by its owner in an appropriate area.

  • You provoked or intentionally hit the animal.

  • You were trespassing on private property not open to regular traffic.

Unless proven negligent, the pet owner usually faces the legal and financial responsibility. Their homeowners or renters insurance policy should cover associated costs like your car repairs, medical bills for passengers, and defense against lawsuits.

If the owner is uninsured or cannot cover all damages, your own insurance will step in after you pay the deductible. If fault is disputed, it will be determined in court based on evidence and testimony.

Possible Complications

  • If you accidentally hit your own pet, it may or may not be covered depending on your policy and state laws. Discuss options with your insurer.

  • Dogs with unknown owners or strays present challenges. You will likely need to file a claim under your own policy.

  • Injured animals you take for vet care yourself without owner consent may make you liable for treatment costs. Whenever possible, wait for the owner or authorities to handle transportation.

  • Aggressive breeds like pit bulls can heighten liability questions around defensive wounding and pet restraint responsibility. Be sure to get all details documented clearly.

Tips for Handling the Situation

Hitting someone’s pet is stressful for all involved. These tips can help ease the situation:

  • Remain calm and sympathetic. Understand the owner is losing or injured companion.

  • Do not admit fault, even if you feel responsible. Let insurance investigation determine liability.

  • Follow the law by stopping and reporting the incident. Provide ID and insurance information.

  • Only move an injured dog if absolutely necessary for safety reasons. Wait for the owner whenever possible.

  • Thoroughly document everything with photos, statements, contact information, police reports, and other records.

  • Contact your insurance promptly and cooperate fully with information requests.

  • Pay your deductible for car repairs and let your insurer handle claim payments.

  • Seek legal counsel if lawsuits arise or liability disputes intensify.

When to Call a Lawyer

An experienced attorney can help protect you if:

  • The owner demands payment that exceeds your policy limits or available resources.

  • You are being denied comprehensive or liability claim coverage by your insurer.

  • Police cite or criminally charge you for a hit-and-run or animal cruelty.

  • A dog bite or attack follows the accident due to defensive wounding instinct.

  • Injuries to passengers result in medical claims against you.

  • The owner files a lawsuit for damages like veterinary bills, property loss, emotional distress, etc.

Dog injury accidents can quickly escalate beyond car repairs. Legal expertise is key for defending against excessive demands, unfounded lawsuits, disputed liability, or charges.

Key Takeaways

  • Stop immediately and report if you hit a dog or other animal. Provide insurance information if the owner is present.

  • Contact your insurer promptly, cooperate fully, and pay your deductible for car repairs.

  • Let your liability coverage handle injury claims unless negligence on your part is proven.

  • The dog owner is generally liable, but your insurance will cover you if they are uninsured.

  • Document everything thoroughly including photos, statements, contact info, police reports, vet bills, etc.

  • Seek legal counsel if you are sued, criminally charged, or claims exceed policy limits.

Hitting a dog can be upsetting, but following the proper steps is crucial for resolving the situation fairly. Your insurance policy provides important protection if liability disputes arise. With a few precautions, you can handle this unfortunate accident smoothly.

What to do when your dog gets hit by a car!


Does car insurance cover if you hit a dog?

Comprehensive coverage can pay for damage to your vehicle caused by hitting a dog or other animal. You would pay your car insurance deductible after filing a claim, and your insurer would cover the rest of the repair costs.

Does auto insurance cover hitting an animal?

You’re covered for hitting a deer or other animal on the road if you have comprehensive, an optional coverage you can add to your auto policy. Most drivers add comprehensive coverage, but it isn’t required unless you’re leasing or financing your car.

What happens if a dog is hit by a car?

Call your primary care veterinarian or, if it’s out of hours or you’re away from home, contact your nearest 24/7 animal emergency hospital. While most emergency veterinary clinics are available for walk-ins it is always better to call ahead to let them know what has happened and that you’re on your way.

Does car insurance cover hitting a raccoon?

Luckily, comprehensive car insurance will cover most animal hits. If you live in an area with many wild animals crossing over roadways, consider upgrading your car insurance.

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