There are many different things that can distract a driver, but one of the things that cause severe accidents about which many people do not think is having a pet in the car.  An animal who is not secured in a travel crate or harness may distract a driver from the road or may interfere with a driver’s ability to operate the vehicle.

Despite the fact that animals pose a significant danger, only one state, Hawaii, has a specific rule prohibiting animals from traveling on the lap of the driver.  However, other states will cite drivers for traveling with pets in their laps under distracted driving laws or other traffic laws.  Kentucky does not have a specific law aimed at people who travel with unrestrained animals.  However, some cities may have passed laws that address this issue.  Although there are no definitive study numbers, it is estimated that thousands of motor vehicle accidents have been caused by loose animals in the vehicle.

There are many animal behaviors that may lead to a serious accident, including:

  • Animals fighting in the car – if a person is traveling with more than one animal, there is the potential for a fight, especially because travel puts increased stress on most animals;
  • Animals getting sick in the vehicle – animals may get carsick in the same way that people do.  A dog or cat that is vomiting may cause the driver to take his eyes off the road, leading to a dangerous accident;
  • Animals getting into mischief in the car – a dog who is unrestrained in the car may decide to chew on the leather upholstery or dig up the carpet, causing the driver to attempt to stop the bad behavior; or
  • Animals may seek attention – the dog in the car does not understand that a driver’s focus has to be on traffic conditions rather than on him, so he may engage in active behaviors, such as pawing the driver or placing his head in the lap of the driver, leading to a dangerous situation.

If there is an accident with a pet in the vehicle, that animal can be thrown into the driver or passengers, causing significant harm to both the people and the animals.  In addition, an animal may get loose from the vehicle after a crash, becoming a hazard to other drivers who attempt to avoid hitting an unrestrained animal in the road.

There is a theory that this is a very under-reported situation because the only way that authorities learn that the animal distracted the driver at a critical time is if the owner of the animal admits it.  While the driver who hit Stephen King fifteen years ago claimed to have been distracted by his dog, most people do not readily confess to this.  It is for this reason that most states are not likely to enact targeted legislation to mandate pet restraints while traveling.  However, this does not mean that a driver cannot be held responsible for the harm that he caused while negligently transporting his animal.  Skilled car accident attorneys can build a case on circumstantial evidence that a loose dog or cat played a role in the devastating crash.

Murphy and Associates, PLC Attorneys Fight for Victims’ Rights

Any time there is a vehicle accident that is caused by negligence, it is important to hold the responsible driver accountable for his wrongdoing.  If you or a loved one was injured in a crash and the other driver was at fault, or the driver of the car in which you were a passenger caused the accident, then the skilled Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys at Murphy & Associates, PLC are ready to work hard to get the results that you deserve.  To schedule an initial case evaluation, please call us at (502) 305-9657.  We only receive our fee if we recover for you.