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Animal Car Collisions & Auto Insurance

Whether you’re the owner of the vehicle or the owner of the pet, it’s nerve-wracking and heartbreaking when an animal is hit in the road. Here are some guidelines to better understand who’s liable and who’s covered in these circumstances.

Is animal damage covered by car insurance?

If you have comprehensive insurance coverage on your car then you will likely be covered for damage that isn’t caused by a car on car collision. Most of the time this covers animal collisions, damage caused by animals in general, vandalism, theft, and fire or weather damage. Your insurance provider will be able to lay out the full details of your coverage.

Is hitting an animal considered an “at fault” car accident?

If you hit a wild animal on the, such as a deer, it will be covered by comprehensive car collision coverage. The rules vary if you were to strike an animal that is someone’s pet, as the owner can be liable for not following leash laws.

What Happens if You Hit an Animal with Your Car?

Although you may think of hitting an animal as a collision, the collision coverage portion of auto insurance policies does not cover you. Instead, it’s the comprehensive portion that would kick in if you hit an animal with your car, says Deborah Becker, an agent for State Farm in Eau Claire, Wis.

Comprehensive coverage, which pays for any damages the animal causes to the car, is an optional form of coverage. You’ll have to add it to your policy, and it will cost extra. In addition, you’ll usually have to pay a deductible out of pocket before your insurer picks up the rest of the repair bill.

If the animal was someone’s pet, you may be able to recover that deductible from the animal’s owner, according to Becker. Say, for example, that pet was running around the neighborhood without a leash on. After it pays your claim, your insurer might try to recoup its own losses from the pet’s owner — a process called “subrogation.”

“If the animal is a dog or cat and your insurance company successfully subrogates against the owner of the animal, you could have your deductible, and the amount of repairs you had to pay out of pocket before your comprehensive coverage kicked in, returned to you,” Becker says.

What Happens if Your Pet is Hit by a Car?

If your dog or cat gets hit by a car, it’s more likely that you’ll be held liable for any damage to the car than the driver would be for hitting your pet. Suing the driver for compensation to cover your pet’s injuries is often futile because of leash laws, which put the burden of responsibility on pet owners.

To be eligible for any compensation in these instances, pet owners would have to go the extra mile to prove that the driver was in some way negligent. Chances are, the pet owner would be reimbursed only for the pet’s value, rather than for the thousands of dollars in veterinary bills.

“Typically, the animal is considered property, so if the car, for example, jumped the curb and ran the animal down, it would be akin to running into and damaging a house,” says Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.

What If Your Pet Is Injured While Inside Your Car?

Auto insurance protection for pets is rare. Progressive, however, automatically includes “pet injury coverage” under its collision coverage. If you have collision coverage on your policy, this pet protection will pay up to $1,000 toward veterinary bills if a dog or cat is injured while inside the vehicle.

This type of protection differs from pet health insurance, which covers veterinary care when an animal is sick or has suffered injuries, regardless of the cause. Pet health insurance is available from a variety of providers, including dog food companies, the American Kennel Club and specialty insurers like Trupanion.

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