I was recently involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, since it was my first accident, I was scatter-brained and anxious. What I did not realize at the time was that the actions you take immediately after the accident can affect a personal injury case and the outcome of that case. I wanted to find a way to share my experiences and mistakes with other. Since the Internet is so popular, I figured this would be a great way to do so. While you likely aren't planning on being in an accident soon, if you are, hopefully you remember some of the tips I share on this website.
If you've just gotten a pet and are planning to drive with it in your car, remember that you must restrain it lest it distract you. Pets can interfere with your driving enough to cause an accident, and that would have severe repercussions for you even if you and your pet weren't injured. There could be other penalties as well depending on how the laws of your state are configured. Here's a look at what pets in cars can do, and how that can affect you and your liability in accidents.
Pets Can Wreak Havoc
The pets that are loose in cars are generally dogs; cats aren't too fond of being in a moving car, so they let you know early on that there's no way you're taking them anywhere unless you put them in a carrier.
Dogs, though, love to stick their noses out the window and investigate the rest of the car. They can run onto your lap, prevent you from reaching the steering wheel, get underfoot and prevent you from reaching the brake pedal, block your vision, and even mess with the gear shift and emergency brake. They can also become agitated for whatever reason, suddenly hurting people in the car.
Loose Pets Are Distractions
For these reasons, pets are often considered distractions, much like talking on a cell phone would be. The legal effects can vary from place to place, but it's not uncommon to find that you've been charged with distracted driving because your dog acted up. You might also be charged with an additional penalty if your state required pets be restrained in cars.
If you cause an accident because your pet has acted up, the law will not look at it as a pure mistake that you couldn't prevent. You would be liable for damages sustained by the other party or parties in the accident, and your insurance could increase substantially because you're now a risky driver.
Remember that laws can change as well -- you might not face many penalties now, for example, but in a couple of years, your state could increase current penalties or institute new ones. If your pet were to distract you to the point of causing an accident then, you'd face numerous legal hurdles that even the best accident attorney would find difficult to fight.
Car Carriers and Pet Seat Belts Are Available
It's much easier to avoid the whole situation if you prevent your pet from bothering you in the first place. As cute as it might be to have your dog hanging its head out the window, or smiling at people in the car behind you through the rear window, you have to restrain it. There are special pet seat belts made to fit different sizes of dogs, for example; be sure you re-evaluate the belt every few months as your dog grows so that the pet doesn't outgrow the seat belt. There are also carriers that you can secure in your car to keep the pet fully enclosed.
If you want more information about safely driving with a pet and reducing the chances of you being liable for an accident, talk to an accident attorney, like those at Littman & Babiarz Law Office. The sooner you get your pet used to being restrained in the car, the safer it will be for you to be on the road.