Is It Safe For My Dog in The Passenger Seat?

Some folks want to take their dogs everywhere.  If trained, they are wonderful companions to accompany you when shopping, hiking, going to a dog park, out for coffee, or strolling on the beach.  But to get to your location, they often need to be driven.  So, does that mean it is safe for your dog to be in the front seat with you?  If you live in Massachusetts, you need to be aware of traffic laws about dogs in vehicles that can lead to a ticket and fine if your dog is causing a disturbance and is diverting your attention from driving. 

Safety experts and animal safety organizations like Paws to Click all say that it is a very bad idea for your dog to be in the front seat with you.  Hundreds of dogs and other pets are injured and killed every year in car accidents because their owners had them in the front seat, unrestrained, and in some cases were crushed or fatally injured by a deployed airbag.  Similar to your or your human passenger failing to wear a seatbelt in the front seat of your auto, you face the added risk of going headfirst through a windshield or of being ejected. Statistics show that being ejected makes you 25 times more likely to be killed or suffer a catastrophic injury.  This same risk applies to your unrestrained animal.  There is also the very real possibility that if your dog does survive the accident, they are likely to run from the car and dart into traffic as a consequence of the confusion and trauma following a collision. 

Pets In Car Crashes

Dogs can be a distraction to drivers.  Even if your pet is well-behaved, it can be spooked or become anxious by seeing another dog or animal on the street or in another vehicle.  If it scoots under your feet, it can block your use of the brake or if it climbs onto your lap, it can affect your steering. 

There are companies that sell harnesses or restraining systems for dogs in automobiles and many folks in Massachusetts use these devices.  If you take your dog on trips, short or not, seriously consider purchasing one for your dog.  They are installed for the back seat and should have thick, padded straps that can distribute an impact force as widely as possible.  Tethers should be short and secure at the dog’s back.  Your dog should also be able to either sit upright or lie down while being restrained.  You will likely need to test out any restraining system before you buy one. 

An alternative is a crate for your dog that should only be placed on the floor in the back or open trunk area. You can get a lightweight one made of aluminum, but it should have padding inside it.  Be sure that it is big enough for your dog to sit up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.  These crates can also be strapped down.  Some dogs do get motion sickness and crates can eliminate or mitigate that possibility. 

If restraining your dog is not an option for you, then be sure to child -lock your door so it does not open. For pickup trucks, do not put your dog in the open bed as it could jump out to chase another animal or if it becomes frightened.  A rear-end accident can also seriously injure the animal.  It also faces the risk of being struck by objects that people may throw at the dog or from passing tree branches or debris from the roadway.

Also, never leave your dog unattended in your car, especially in hot weather. Temperatures can rise rapidly and cause heat stroke or death in a short period of time. 

Dog Injuries or Deaths in Accident Claims – We Represent People Who Are Injured

Obviously, dogs are not human beings and are not afforded the same rights and protections as you are. Although there are laws protecting dogs and other animals from abuse, these are criminal statutes and those protections do not extend to the civil arena.  Animals are considered chattel, or personal property, and if damaged or killed, you are only entitled to the market value of the animal.  If your dog was not restrained or was in the front seat when it sustained a serious or fatal injury, an insurer may hesitate in compensating you for the value of the animal, which in many cases is relatively minor.  You should consult with a personal injury lawyer from the law firm of Burns and Jain if you have any questions about injuries to persons. 

However, if a dog or cat caused someone to be distracted and that person negligently hit you or your vehicle, we have extensive experience in such personal injury claims.  

Damages in Personal Injury Claims 

Damages in a personal injury claim vary widely. They typically include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future loss of income
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

If your animal is a special breeder or from a rare pedigree, you should inquire with your insurer about coverage in the event it is injured or killed in a car or any other kind of accident. 

Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer from Burns and Jain 

Handling your own personal injury case is rarely a good idea, especially if your injuries and damages are extensive. Even in clear liability cases, defense counsel and insurers will look for ways to minimize its liability and your damages. By retaining an experienced personal injury lawyer from Burns and Jain, you are assured of getting proper and aggressive representation. Call us at (617) 250-8256 for a free consultation about your personal injury claim.

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