Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years Laura Walker

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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The Concise Case

  • Whether or not you’re liable depends on the circumstances of the accident
  • Hitting a live animal is different than hitting a dead one in the eyes of auto insurance companies
  • Adding comprehensive auto insurance to your policy is the best way to protect yourself from this kind of accident

Many accidents happen when animals dart out into the road and vehicles swerve to miss them. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid a collision. Serious damage can occur to both you and the animal. 

It can be an incredibly distressing experience overall, but it’s worth discussing because you never know when it could happen to you.

Does auto insurance cover hitting a dog? The answer depends on the circumstances of the incident.

Many factors can come into play, and you may need to determine who is at fault in the situation. 

Your provider may cover the costs of vet bills and other expenses if you happen to be found liable. We’ll discuss what to do if you hit a dog while driving and if auto insurance covers hitting a dog or other animals. 

Before we get started, enter your ZIP code into our free comparison tool to compare auto insurance quotes in your area. 

How does auto insurance cover hitting a dog?

Does my insurance cover hitting an animal? You’re more likely to encounter deers or small mammals on the roads in rural areas, but dogs are common as well. Dogs can get out in both rural and urban areas.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a dog to run into the street off-leash while someone is driving and accidentally get hit. 

Comprehensive auto insurance can help you pay for damages to your car if you accidentally hit an animal or dog.

You would need to pay your deductible after filing a claim. At that point, your insurer would then cover the rest of the costs. 

If you’re not sure if you have comprehensive auto insurance or what it is exactly, we can help.

Comprehensive auto insurance covers everything that is not a collision or events that are out of your control. That can mean:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Falling Trees
  • Damages Caused by Storms
  • Accidents with Animals

Some drivers are required to have comprehensive auto insurance, especially if they lease or finance their cars.

Most drivers opt into adding this to their policy because it’s like gambling against nature. You never know what could happen out in the world, and lots of things happen that are out of your control.

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Are you liable for paying for care and damages?

After an emotional accident like this, the first thing on your mind probably won’t be your insurance.

You are likely most concerned about the well-being of the dog, as you should be. This kind of incident is bound to shake everyone involved up. 

Once things settle down, you will wonder who is liable for paying for veterinarian care or damages.

When you hit a pedestrian running across the street, the driver is always at fault for not yielding. However, it doesn’t quite work this way for animals.

If a dog is off-leash and runs into the street, it is considered negligence on the owner’s part, not yours.

Your insurance company will most likely not pay for the dog’s medical bills. That’s because the accident isn’t your fault. 

So how does car insurance cover animal damage? It’s simple — comprehensive coverage will repair damages to your vehicle, but not towards medical bills if the dog was off-leash and it wasn’t your fault.

Hitting a Live Animal Vs. Dead Animal With Your Car

We mentioned comprehensive coverage earlier for accidents that cause damage that was out of the driver’s control.

According to insurance companies, whether or not you hit a live animal or a dead one does make a difference in what kind of coverage you’re eligible for.

In their minds, a live animal can catch you by surprise and be an unavoidable incident.

If the animal is lying dead in the road and you hit it, and your car suffers damages from it, it’s an avoidable accident. 

They believe you have the opportunity to turn the wheel and swerve out of the way of dead animals in the road.

Regardless, you should file a claim. Your collision coverage kicks in whenever your car collides with something else. 

Does insurance cover hitting an animal?

The type of animal you hit can make a difference in what kind of coverage you receive. Certain protocols involve hitting larger animals, like deer, so be sure to look into that if you live in a rural area. 

A full coverage policy will cover you for damage to your car in most situations.

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What To Do if You Hit a Dog With Your Car

Every accident is different, but you can follow a couple of basic protocols to ensure the dog’s safety and keep things under control. 

Don’t move the animal:

Even if you’re driving at slow speeds, it can be easy for dogs to suffer from serious injuries after being hit.

Your first concern should be whether or not the dog is okay, but proceed with caution. An injured animal may act aggressively when they’re scared or hurt, so do not try to move them on your own. 

If the owners are not around, you will need to contact an animal protective service number or call 911 to get help with moving the animal from the road. 

Call the owner: 

If the dog is not acting aggressively and you can get close enough, look for the owner’s number on the animal’s tag and give them a call to tell them what happened and share the location.

Do not leave the accident scene:

Never leave the location of the accident until the police or help has shown up.

This is a legal requirement in most states, and if you leave before anyone shows up, you could end up in serious legal trouble.

Pets are considered personal property, and therefore hitting them is considered property damage if you run from the scene.

Additionally, getting stuck with a hit-and-run charge is a serious offense. You could also be charged with animal cruelty if you leave without getting help for the dog.

According to the lawyers at the Bradshaw Firm, if you stop and call the police, you shouldn’t face any criminal charges.

Call your insurer:

You should always let your auto insurance company know right away if you are involved in an accident.

If you don’t know if your auto insurance covers hitting a dog, reach out to your provider and determine what coverage you have.

You can start by entering your ZIP code into our free comparison tool to compare quotes in your area now.