Does your auto insurance cover your pet?

Jill Overmyer

If you or your passengers are injured in an auto accident, auto insurance coverage will cover your medical bills and expenses. But what if you're in a car accident and your pet is injured?

Car insurance and pet coverage

Whether your pet is covered depends on your policy and auto insurance company. Most insurance companies provide no coverage for pet passenger, but some offer special coverage for pets, regardless of fault. Progressive, for example, has special injury coverage of up to $1,000 for pets. The coverage is available for Progressive's personal and business auto insurance policies. It's built into collision coverage, so you must purchase that to ensure your pets are covered.

However, if your pet is seriously injured, $1,000 will cover some, but not all, of your veterinary bills. Vet bills for injured pets can reach into the thousands, depending on the extent of the injuries and the treatment required.

Pet health insurance

Because auto insurance usually provides no coverage (or not enough coverage) for pet injuries, some pet owners have pet health insurance for their pets, which covers a number of veterinary costs if pets are ill or injured.

Pet health insurance is similar to health insurance for humans, and it usually involves deductibles that you must pay before coverage kicks in. And, like health insurance for humans, pet health insurance comes with a slew of exclusions and exceptions.

Pet safety in the car

Even if your pets are covered, you still want to keep them safe while traveling. A few safety tips for pet owners include:

  • Always restrain your pet. The safest place for a pet in an accident is in a restrained pet carrier or crate. This protects your pet not only during an accident, but in the aftermath --many pets become so frightened after an accident they end up running away and getting hit by a car, according to advocacy group Bark Buckle Up. You also can buy special car seats and seat belts for dogs and cats.
  • Don't let your pet distract you. You may be aware that talking on your cellphone or texting can increase the chance of an accident. But pet passengers can be equally distracting. In a 2010 AAA survey, pet owners admitted petting their dogs, letting their dogs sit in their laps, feeding their dogs and playing with their dogs while behind the wheel.

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