Do I have legal options if a pet causes a distracted driver to hit me?

Woman driving a car with her pet dog in her lapMany people consider a pet another member of the family. The family dog can be an important part of their life, and they frequently include the animal in family activities. This can include running errands or taking trips with a pet in the car.

According to a AAA Foundation for Safety study, approximately 84 percent of pet owners say they drive with their pets on a variety of trips. However, only 16 percent of those drivers use an animal restraint system in the car. This can be a problem when drivers become distracted by their pets. And they do become distracted—the same study revealed that more than half of those people admitted to playing with their pet, offering treats, or even letting the pet sit in their lap while driving.

While the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not provide statistics specific to pet distraction, distracted driving in general is a significant issue on our roads. In 2015, there were 391,000 people injured and 3,477 killed in accidents involving distracted driving. The NHTSA website even notes a case in which a Utah driver became distracted by her dog, crossed the road’s center line, and crashed head-on into a county sheriff’s vehicle.

When a Distracted Pet Owner Has Caused Your Injuries in Alaska

Just like a driver who texts, puts on makeup, eats, or engages in any other behavior that takes his attention away from the road, a distracted pet owner can cause serious accidents and significant injuries. In Alaska, there are no laws that specifically state drivers may not travel with pets in the car or that require pet owners to restrain their pets while in a vehicle. However, accident victims do have the ability to demand the person responsible for their car accident make them whole. A personal injury claim could hold the at-fault driver accountable and could provide compensation for:

  • Medical bills.
  • Lost wages.
  • Future medical bills.
  • Future lost wages.
  • Property damage.
  • Pain and suffering.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident and you suspect the other driver was distracted by a pet, you may be eligible to file a claim. Even if you aren’t sure of your rights, take care to protect yourself and your family. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible and avoid speaking with insurance adjustors until you’ve talked with an experienced attorney.

At the Law Office of Ben Crittenden, personal injury lawyer Ben Crittenden represents accident victims all over Alaska, offering personal attention and effective guidance during this difficult time. Request a free copy of Ben’s book, A Guide to Car Accident Claims in Alaska, to learn more about your legal rights and options after a crash, or call our Anchorage office to speak directly with Ben.