What to Do If You Hit a Dog With Your Car

Steps to Take if You’ve Hit a Dog With Your Car: Call the police or animal control Look for a collar with an owner or veterinarian name If you’re on a busy road and need to move the dog out of the way, place a blanket or a jacket over the injured dog first Do not leave the injured dog

Image by Madelyn Goodnight © The Balance 2020

Hitting any animal with your car is upsetting to most people – but hitting a dog with your car can feel even worse.

It is a horrible feeling to know that someone's pet was injured or killed because of a car accident. Dealing with the aftermath can leave you with a lot of questions. What is the best way to care for the injured dog? Who pays for the dog's injuries? Will your car insurance pay for the repair of your vehicle? What are your legal responsibilities?

How to Care for the Injured Dog

Dealing with an injured dog after a car has hit it is a tricky situation. Wounded animals are unpredictable and can quickly become aggressive. They are scared and in distress. Never try to move an unfamiliar injured dog. You could end up causing more damage to the dog or putting yourself in harm’s way. If you’re on a busy road and need to move the dog out of the road, placing a blanket or a jacket over the injured dog can offer some protection for you, enough to at least get the animal moved off of the road as a last resort.

  • Call the police or animal control. Wait for help to arrive. Do not merely drive off – not only is it cruel, but you could end up in serious legal trouble depending on your state’s laws.
  • If you see a collar and can safely and efficiently read it without placing yourself in harm’s way, see if there is a name of the owner or vet that you can call.
  • If you must move the dog, first try to restrain it in some way.

Veterinary Care Costs

Veterinary bills can quickly pile up after a dog is hit by a car. The dog's owner is usually the one responsible for deciding on the course of treatment and for covering all the expenses. However, if the owner cannot be located, the cost can fall on the person who brought the dog to the vet. That’s why it’s much better to call animal control or the police if you hit a dog. If you do take an injured dog to the vet and are unsure of the dog's owner, speak with the vet on what to expect. Find out what the standard procedure is in this type of accident.

Repairs to Your Vehicle

Unless you were driving negligently or you intentionally hit the dog, you probably won’t be on the hook for the dog’s veterinary costs, but what about the cost of repairs to your vehicle?

Physical damage repairs after hitting an animal are covered by comprehensive car insurance coverage. If the animal is a dog, the claim could be handled a little differently. In most states, if a comprehensive claim is filed due to hitting a dog, the insurance company will subrogate the claim by going after the dog's owner. If you cannot locate the owner, you must have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle for your car insurance to cover the damage.

The dog's owner is said to be at-fault or responsible because the dog should not be on the road for starters. The dog owner's homeowners insurance policy would pick up such a claim under its liability coverage. Typically liability claims do not have a deductible. However, a claim filed against a homeowners policy is sure to be surcharged at renewal. If you do not have comprehensive coverage, you can go directly to the dog owner's home insurance carrier to file a claim for repairs to your vehicle. The owner would have to admit responsibility if a police report was never filed.

Hitting your own dog could result in an at-fault accident which would result in a collision claim, and it is going to be up to your insurance carrier on how the claim is filed.

Do Not Leave an Injured Dog!

The panic and or stress of the situation can make leaving the scene of hitting a pet seem like the easy thing to do, but it is not the right thing to do. Get caught, and you could be cited for animal cruelty. Do the right thing and make sure the animal is not going to sustain further injury. Certainly, nobody wants to deal with the aftermath of a dog car accident, but it is your responsibility to take care of the situation to the best of your ability.