July 11, 2022

Can Pets Cause Distracted Driving Accidents?

Dog with Glasses

The number of possible distractions during any single car drive is staggering; there are handheld and GPS devices, billboards, things you might be eating or drinking, other passengers, your children, and yes, pets, all competing for attention. Furry friends can be great traveling companions, but there is no guarantee that they will not do things that pull your eyes and hands away from the task at hand. While you need not always leave your best buddy at home when running errands or board them when taking road trips, there are safety precautions that can keep them safer and decrease the likelihood of ending up in a car accident.

How Distracting Can Pets Really Be?

Studies show that people who often drive with pets in their vehicles are frequently distracted by them. Up to 64 percent of these drivers surveyed admitted to taking part in pet-related activities that are potentially distracting, with 29 percent admitting to various pet-related distractions like:

  • Feeding their pets while driving.
  • Taking photos of their pets.
  • Letting their pets sit in their laps as they drove.

It is also common for pet owners to let their cats and dogs move about inside their vehicles while their cars are in motion, and many also let their pets stick their heads out the windows. Although this can seem like harmless fun, it is actually very dangerous, as animals are unpredictable by nature. Just as importantly, they will not be restrained should an accident occur, possibly leading to life-threatening injuries or death.

How Can I Keep My Pet Safe in the Car?

To keep pets as safe as possible when traveling in vehicles, they should not be allowed to sit in the front seat. This puts them at higher risk for getting thrown from the vehicle in a crash. Besides that, an accident will likely trigger an airbag deployment; these are not designed for animals, so they could get seriously injured. Also keep your cat or dog out of your lap, because of these reasons and the chance of the pet suddenly moving. It is easy to see how distracting that could be, and how it could lead to an accident.

Pets should always be in the back seat or rear cargo area of a vehicle when traveling, but just having them sit there is not a good idea. Smaller pets can be placed in pet carriers that are made for this very purpose. If you find one that has lots of room for them to move around and has enough ventilation, they should be quite comfortable. The carrier will need to be secured so it holds should you have to slam on your brakes or if you get into an accident. Another option is pet seat belts and harnesses. These work with vehicle seat belts, and are easy to use. You will need to find the right size; if the one you buy or borrow is too small or large, it will not work properly.

It is also a good idea to bring along your pet’s favorite playthings and belongings to help them feel more at home; put their best blanket, chew toys and a few snacks in the carrier or with them in the back. For longer trips, be sure to have a pet travel kit that has food, water, and bowls. Also keep an extra leash and their health records in the car just in case.

What Should I Know About Pennsylvania Accident Laws?

If you were involved in any kind auto accident that took place in the State of Pennsylvania, certain laws will affect how your case eventually plays out. First is the statute of limitations – all states have these deadlines for filing these kinds of lawsuits. In Pennsylvania, it is the same for most personal injury cases, which is two years. Should you wait too long and miss that time limit, your case will most likely be dismissed. The clock starts running on the date of the accident but if there is a fatality and a representative for the deceased wants to file, the deadline for filing  a wrong death lawsuit is two years after the person’s death.

The second important law that impacts car accident cases is Pennsylvania’s modified comparative fault rule. If one driver is entirely responsible (at fault) for causing an accident, their auto insurance provider will usually pay for the injured party’s medical expenses, lost wages and other losses suffered. However, if the other party is found to be partly at fault for the accident, that is a different story. When the blame is shared, the court will be asked to calculate:

  1. The dollar amount for the plaintiff’s damages
  2. The percentage of fault belonging to each party.

Can the Comparative Fault Rule Reduce My Damages?

The answer to this question is yes. Say a court decided that the total damages awarded for medical bills and lost income was $50,000 for a plaintiff, but it was also determined that the plaintiff was distracted because they were feeding their pet and contributed 30 percent to the accident. According to the comparative fault rule, the plaintiff’s damages would be reduced by 30 percent. So instead of receiving the $50,000, the plaintiff might only get $35,000. It is also important to note that if a plaintiff is found to be 50 percent or more at fault for a crash, they will receive no damages at all.

Besides having your damages reduced or taken away, auto insurance claims adjusters will take this all into account when considering your claim and policy. So if a court finds that you were partially responsible for what happened, it could impact your insurance compensation and increase your premium costs. These are all good reasons to take the steps to keep your pet secure while traveling in your car. These kinds of crashes are usually preventable, and taking the right precautions will keep your cat, dog, and you safer when out on the road.

The Delaware County Car Accident Lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Advocate for Driving Safely With Pets

If you were involved in any type of auto accident with or without a pet, contact the compassionate Delaware County car accident lawyers at Anthony C. Gagliano III, P.C. Complete our online form or contact our Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania offices at 267-861-7100 for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Chester County, and Norristown.