Pet ownership is an important part of life for many South Carolina residents. According to data from the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), around 60 percent of South Carolina households own at least one pet. The survey found that dogs are far and away the most popular pet within the state. Charleston is known as a great city for dog lovers. In fact, there are several highly regarded dog friendly parks throughout the Charleston area. This includes places such as North Charleston Wannamaker County Park, Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands County Park, and James Island County Park. Unfortunately, it also must be noted that pet ownership comes with the risk that a pet might suffer a serious injury. In particular, automobiles are a major safety threat to pets. Whenever a pet is in or around an automobile there will always be the risk of injury. In the event that a pet suffers a car accident injury, pet owners need to understand their legal options.

Pet Car Accident Injuries: Recovering Compensation

For many Charleston pet owners, their animals quickly become members of the family. However, South Carolina law does not view pets in this light. In fact, as far as the law is concerned, pets are simply a form of property. This is an important distinction to make because it has a major impact of the amount of injury compensation that could be available to pet owners. As pets are property under the law, there is no avenue for recovery for pain and suffering or emotional distress. Instead, pet owners, like other property owners, are entitled to be made ‘whole’ for their economic damages. In other words, pet owners are entitled to be compensated for the amount needed to ‘repair’ their damaged property. Generally, this means that if your pet has suffered a car accident injury, you can seek veterinary costs and reasonable rehabilitation expenses. Claims for these damages can be made against the liable insurance company. In some case, such as a hit and run accident, that insurance company may be your own insurance company. If you have any questions about pet injury compensation, or how to file a car accident insurance claim, please contact an experienced Charleston car accident lawyer for immediate assistance.

What if My Pet Dies in a Car Accident?

In the tragic event that your pet is killed in an accident, South Carolina law will likely not provide you with much comfort. Unfortunately, the current system, which treats pets purely as property, is inadequate for this type of situation. For instance, if your Honda was totaled by the negligence of another driver, you would be entitled to have that vehicle replaced. A new Honda, of similar value, would generally be a perfectly acceptable replacement. Of course, with your pet, the situation is not nearly that simple. The true value of your pet cannot be adequately measured in dollars. Pets carry so much additional sentimental and emotional value. Sadly, South Carolina law does not allow for recovery for the loss of sentimental value. You would instead be entitled to compensation for the economic replacement value of your animal. Ultimately, this will vary based on your pet. For example, if  your animal was a purebred or had any specialized training, your entitled compensation may be higher.

Keeping Your Pets Safe from the Risks Posed By Automobiles

Pets face many different types of dangers from automobiles. It is critical that proper care is taken to ensure pet safety at all times. The following is a list of six tips to help you keep your pet safe when travelling with your pet via car this summer:

You should always keep an eye on your pet when loading and unloading your car. While some animals do well in the car, others are frightened. They may attempt to escape at the first opportunity. This could be very dangerous if you are around a busy roadway.

  • You should remember that riding in an automobile is unnatural for your pet. For some animals, comfort in the car will take some time. If you are planning a lengthy road trip, it is best to get your pet used to the car by first taking a few shorter trips. These practice rides can help dramatically reduce the chances that your pet will develop a car induced illness or injury.
  • Your pets need to be properly secured while travelling in your vehicle. This generally means that pets should be placed into a well ventilated travelling crate. You would never let a child roam around a moving car completely unrestrained, the same rules should apply to your pet. Remember, there is always the risk of an accident. If an accident occurs, an unrestrained pet is placed at high injury risk.
  • Your pet needs to be protected from a hot car. It is no secret that summers in South Carolina are scorching. You should never leave your pet inside of a hot car. Further, you need to be sure that your pet is adequately hydrated throughout any road trip.
  • You should ensure that your pet has a microchip implanted and that your pet also wears a collar. This is critically important on road trips because, unfortunately, there is a risk that your pet could escape. If you are away from your home, you may have a difficult time locating your pet without these forms of identification.
  • Finally, it is best to take it relatively easy on your pet. Be sure to plan frequent stops within your trip to give your pet some time to take some well deserved breaks.

Contact Our Charleston Office Today

If your pet has been injured or killed in a car accident, our experienced attorneys can help. You and your family deserve a fair settlement from the insurance company that fully accounts for your pet-related damages. Please do not hesitate contact our Charleston office today at (877) 721-5638 to learn more about what the Joye Law Firm can do for you. Initial legal consultations are always free of charge and we represent car accident victims throughout the Charleston area.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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