Can I Obtain Compensation for My Pet’s Injuries?
In the United States, owning a pet is the norm. According to a recent survey taken by the American Pet Products Association, over 65 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet. These pets are not just perceived as “pets” though – they are part of the family. They have not only worked their way into our hearts and homes but also our automobiles. The unfortunate aspect of traveling in a vehicle with your pet is that unforeseen accidents can occur, which leads pet owners to ask, “what happens if my pet gets injured in an automobile accident?”.
If your pet is injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may end up incurring expenses for your pet’s veterinary treatment (or even loss in the event of the pet’s death). Under West Virginia law, the pet owner has a right to recover from the at-fault party. As more fully explained in W.Va Code § 19-20-12, any person whose pet is wrongfully or unlawfully killed or injured by any person shall have a right of action against that person. As a result, you may be able to recover compensation for damages related to your pet’s veterinary bills or loss by filing a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. While it may seem odd or even inhumane, pets are considered “personal property” under law. Therefore, the negligent driver’s property damage insurance limits will apply.
Notwithstanding, you as a pet owner may also recover additional compensation for your pain and suffering. With pets being apart of the family, pet owners may experience real emotional distress when their pets are tragically injured or killed due to a negligent driver’s wrongful actions. Because of this, courts may award damages for loss of companionship, love and affection, as well as emotional distress, related to the unfortunate tragic loss of a pet. Damages relating to the annoyance of inconvenience of trips to the veterinary office may also be awarded. Further, in extreme cases, punitive damages may be awarded to serve as a punishment against the negligent driver and to deter future unlawful behavior.
If you or your pet have been injured in an automobile accident, the Law Office of P. Zachary Stewart is available to help you. Call our office now at 304-914-3577 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. You can also contact us online.