Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for My Pet?

Although you cannot file a personal injury claim for your pet in most states, you may be able to recover compensation for veterinary bills and other pet-related losses in certain situations. For example, if someone else causes a car accident while your pet is in the car, that person may be responsible for your animal’s veterinary costs. Your pet’s injuries will be considered property damage, even if you ultimately lose your beloved cat or dog because of the accident.

Another situation in which personal injury claims involve pets is a dog bite case. If your neighbor’s dog bites you and mauls your dog, both you and your dog may be able to recover compensation for related injuries. In one Illinois case (Leith v. Frost), a dachshund was mauled by a Siberian husky, and the husky’s owner had to reimburse the dachshund’s owner for $5,000 worth of vet bills.

In most cases, the liable party would only have to pay the $200 “market value” of the dachshund, but because the family demonstrated how much the dog was worth to them by paying its medical bills, the court awarded all $5,000 of accident-related expenses.

In California, state law also allows for “exemplary damages” when someone intentionally harms another’s pet. That being said, other states, like Georgia, have not yet caught up.

Calculating Your Loss

Love for a pet is legally subjective, and courts use certain theories to determine what a pet is worth. Courts calculate damages in personal injury cases involving pets with the following theories:

  • Fair market value — what would your pet be worth if you sold it? (includes factors like age, purchase price, health, breed, and pedigree)
  • Replacement cost — how much would it cost to purchase and train a new pet?
  • Special economic value — was your pet a service animal, used for breeding, or a prize-winning purebred?

Sadly, most states don’t allow their owners to recover non-economic damages when their pets are harmed or killed in accidents. If you suffer any kind of physical injury yourself, however, you can discuss how the accident caused physical pain and suffering and/or mental anguish.

Recovering From Accidents

Whether or not your pet is in the car at the time of your accident, you may be entitled to compensation if you sustained major injuries or property loss as a result of someone else’s negligence.

Our attorneys at Busch, Reed Jones & Leeper, P.C. can help you understand your rights and legal options during a free consultation. Call us at (770) 629-0154 or contact us online to schedule yours today.

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