Many of us love our animals and treat our pets as family members. They go on outings to the park, family road trips, and even join us on daily errands. But pets in the car can be a distraction and sometimes even a hazard.
According to AAA, 29% of people admit to being distracted by their dogs while driving. Their research indicates that even more people are distracted by pets but perhaps don’t realize it:
· More than half of people pet their dogs while driving.
· Seventeen percent of people hold their dogs in their lap while driving.
· Thirteen percent of people admit they give their dogs food or treats while driving.
· Four percent of people even play with their dogs while driving.
You can endanger your pet’s life if you don’t take some precautions. Moreover, pet distracted drivers are dangerous on the roads.
How Pets Distract
As lovable as they are, pets can distract you from driving while they’re in the car.
· An unrestrained pet can crawl under your feet, impeding your access to the brake and accelerator.
· Pets can whine, cry, or become sick while you drive.
· Pets can crawl in your lap or the passenger seat, blocking your view of the windshield or mirrors.
· If you suddenly brake, pets can fly through the car, possibly hitting and injuring you or a passenger.
· In a crash, unrestrained pets can become flying projectiles, going through the windshield or windows, or hitting and injuring you or another passenger.
An unrestrained 30-pound dog in an accident at 30 mph will exert 900 pounds of force. At 65 mph, that same dog will exert 1950 pounds of force.
Illinois Car Accident Liability
In Illinois, if an accident was entirely one driver’s fault, the result is typically predictable. The driver at fault, through insurance, is responsible for the costs of medical bills, property damage, and other damages. However, Illinois is a comparative fault state. Comparative fault means that if both parties are partially at fault for the accident, a court can assign a percentage of fault to each party. The court will reduce a plaintiff’s damage award according to their share of fault. If the plaintiff is 25% at fault and receives a $100,000 damage award, the court will reduce their damage award to $75,000. If an unrestrained pet in your car is partially responsible for the accident, that will reduce any damage award.
How to Avoid Pet Car Accidents
The best thing you can do to keep your pet from distracting you or causing an accident is to restrain them in the car.
· Use a padded harness that connects to your car’s LATCH system.
· Keep pets in the back of the car – an airbag can be deadly for a small animal.
· Use a soft-sided or hard-sided crate securely strapped down in the car.
· Use a pet car seat for small dogs.
· Use a barrier gate to keep your pets in the back section of your car or SUV.
The best option is one that prevents your pets from distracting you or moving freely about the vehicle while also offering the best physical protection for your pets in the event of a crash.
What to Do If Someone Else’s Pet Caused Your Accident
If you’re in an accident that you believe happened because of a pet in another person’s car, there are some steps you can take to document what happened.
· Police Report: If the police come, be sure to include the presence of an animal in the other car, as well as your suspicions, when giving your statement.
· Document the Scene: Document the scene and the presence of any pets with your phone camera.
· Medical Treatment: If you are hurt, seek medical attention right away.
· Consult an Attorney: It’s a good idea to consult an attorney to determine your options through insurance claims or a lawsuit.
Hire an Experienced Illinois Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, you need skilled legal advice. The experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys at the Cullotta Bravo Law Group can help. Our seasoned attorneys can help you document your claims, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, file suit to help you recover your damages. Contact us online or give us a call at 630-898-7800 to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.