The Dangers Of Driving With Unrestrained Pets In The Car

One of the often-overlooked causes of distracted driving car accidents is pets. A dog or another pet in a car can distract the driver by suddenly moving or barking and cause the driver to take their attention off the task of driving long enough to crash. Drivers need to have both hands on the wheel and their attention focused on the road.

young woman in a car with her cute small jack russell dog

In a survey conducted by AAA and Kurgo, a manufacturer of pet travel products, nearly six in 10 respondents (56%) reported driving with their dogs at least once in the prior month. Further, one out of three dog owners (33%) admitted being distracted by their dog while driving, and twice as many (two out of three, or 66%) admitted to engaging in distracting activities with their dog while driving.

Looking away from the road for more than two seconds while driving doubles your risk of being in a crash, according to research. At Sam & Ash, LLP, our distracted driving accident attorneys have helped thousands of Nevadans get What’s Right after car accidents that were not their fault, including the compensation and care they deserve.

If you were injured in an accident and there was an unrestrained pet in the other car involved in the crash, get legal advice about a potential insurance claim from a trusted Las Vegas distracted driving accident lawyer at Sam & Ash, LLP. We will review your case for free and discuss your options for seeking compensation for your medical bills and other expenses. If we pursue a claim on your behalf, you will not have any out-of-pocket expenses. Call or contact us online today. We’re here to answer your legal questions 24/7 — because you deserve What’s Right.

Dangers of Pets Riding Unrestrained in Cars

Small dog maltese sitting safe in the car on the back seat in a safety crate

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says distracted driving of all types claimed 3,142 lives and left an estimated 424,000 additional people injured in 2019. While NHTSA does not break out statistics for car accidents caused by pets, the AAA/Kurgo survey says only 17% of dog owners who have driven with their pets use some form of pet restraint while their dogs are in their vehicles.

Only a handful of states have specific laws requiring dogs to wear a harness or be restricted in a moving vehicle. There is no law in Nevada that requires a dog to be restrained or confined to a crate during transportation.

In the AAA/Kurgo survey, respondents said activities they had engaged in while driving with dogs included:

  • Petting their dog (52%)
  • Using hands or arms to restrict a dog’s movement or hold a dog in place when applying brakes (23%)
  • Using hands/arms to keep a dog from climbing from the back seat to the front seat (19%)
  • Reaching into the back seat to interact with a dog (18%)
  • Holding a dog while driving or allowing the dog to sit in the driver’s lap (17%)
  • Giving food or treats to a dog (13%)
  • Playing with a dog (4%)
  • Taking a photo of a dog (3%).

In addition to the potential for distracting the driver, an unrestrained 10-pound dog becomes a projectile in a crash and at 50 miles per hour will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, according to AAA. An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 miles per hour will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of force—enough to cause serious trauma.

After a crash, an unrestrained dog or other large pet may attempt to bite first responders and delay emergency workers’ access to the injured driver and passengers. A terrified dog or cat might escape the crashed vehicle and be hit by passing vehicles or cause a second accident.

What About Your Pet in a Car Accident?

We recognize that many of our clients are pet owners and may be among those who don’t always restrain their dogs or other animal companions when on a short car trip. But even when pets are properly restrained in a moving vehicle, they may be injured in car accidents.

A pet owner may be able to recover compensation for their pet’s injury or the loss of a pet in a car accident caused by a negligent driver. Nevada law (NRS 41.740) allows a pet owner to seek compensation for the cost of:

  • Veterinary care incurred because of the injury or death of the pet
  • Any reduction in the market value of the pet caused by the injury
  • The market value of a pet that is killed and reasonable burial expenses
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees and costs for bringing the claim.

Such damages are limited to a maximum of $5,000 per pet.

Please Restrain Your Pets When Traveling

The American Veterinary Medical Association says pets should always be properly restrained by a secure harness or a carrier while in a motor vehicle. A small pet sitting in your lap could be injured or killed by an inflating airbag or could be crushed between your body and the airbag in a collision, the AVMA says. An unrestrained pet could be thrown through a window or windshield in a collision, as well.

“Not only could your pet be injured in the collision, but it might also increase your risk of collision by distracting you and taking your attention away from where it should be – on the road,” the AVMA also says.

Many products are available to help restrain pets, but unlike restraints for humans, there are no standards or industry tests for them, according to Consumer Reports. Even those labeled “crash-tested” are usually rated only according to the manufacturer’s claims. The nonprofit group Center for Pet Safety conducts independent tests of dog crates, harnesses, and carriers, and CR lists several top-performing models at the link above.

What To Do After a Car Accident Involving a Pet

4 dogs sitting at the trunk car

It can be difficult to hold distracted drivers accountable for their recklessness leading up to an accident. We typically must rely on the driver to admit that he or she was distracted by something when the accident occurred. However, knowing that a dog or cat was unrestrained in a car that crossed out of its lane and crashed, failed to stop before a rear-end collision, or made another unexpected maneuver, is an indication that pet distraction should be explored as a possible theory as to the cause of the accident.

If you are in a car accident and see an animal emerge from the other vehicle or move about inside the vehicle, you should try to get a photo of it. If you cannot, mention it to the responding police, EMTs, and/or other witnesses to the crash including passengers in your car so that they acknowledge its presence and will be able to testify about it later, if needed.

After any car accident injury, if you are able, you should:

  • Obtain contact and insurance information
  • Take photos of vehicles, the accident scene, and the people involved
  • Collect receipts from medical care and car towing and repairs
  • Keep a record of your injuries and recovery
  • Write down what happened in the accident
  • Keep a journal about your medical care, recovery gains, setbacks, and how your life has been affected
  • Stay off social media because social media posts may be used against you in ways that you do not expect
  • Contact a distracted driving accident lawyer in Las Vegas

A lawyer from Sam & Ash, LLP can help you pursue a claim against the driver responsible for a distracted driving accident caused by an unrestrained pet in Nevada. We understand the law and know how to fight for all the compensation you deserve.

Contact Sam & Ash Today

Contact Sam & Ash, LLP, in Las Vegas as soon as possible after a collision that may have been caused by a driver who was distracted by their pet. At Sam & Ash, our car accident lawyers have worked to get justice for thousands of car accident victims just like you. We know what it takes to pursue the best results possible in your case. We are ready to fight for you.

After a car accident, we can help you seek compensation for medical bills, lost income, property damage, emotional distress, and your other pain and suffering. We’re here 24/7 to answer your questions and get started on your case — because you deserve What’s Right.