Car accidents don't affect just the humans in the car -- they affect any animals in there as well. From frightened pets that escape and run off to pets that are injured or killed in the accident, you can seek compensation from the party that caused the accident for different claims. The one monkey wrench lies in how the pet was restrained in the car, but that is often simple to prove.
A Note About Those Restraints
When you drive with a pet, it should be restrained somehow, either in a crate or in a harness that keeps the animal from bothering you while you drive. If you drive with the pet unrestrained, get into an accident while all your car windows are down, and see the pet run away, you might not be able to really claim any compensation for the pet. The other party could easily claim that the animal was likely to jump out anyway, given the lack of restraints and the open windows.
Restraints can break and let the animal escape -- but if you can show that the pet was in a harness or crate that broke during the accident, then you'll have a much better case for asking for compensation.
However, be aware of timing. You likely won't be able to sue regarding a missing or injured pet if the pet escaped from an unsecured car a while after the accident. In other words, if you're in an accident but can pull over to the side of the road, the pet's restraint breaks, and then the pet leaps out later on while you're trading insurance information with the other party, that's not really the other party's fault. That's really your fault for not securing the pet while you were trading paperwork.
Pets that have been injured in the accident will have vet bills that you can include in your claim, even if the pet was injured after running away from the car. The logic there is that the pet would not have been in the injurious situation if it hadn't gotten out of the car after the accident. You'll have to show that you made an effort to find the pet because, if it looks like you didn't make an effort, the court could say the pet might not have ended up injured if you'd gone to find it. That sounds cruel, but it is something to be aware of. Keep records of your calls to shelters and animal control, and of any flyers or messages you send out regarding the pet.
Whether the pet is lost, injured, or dead, emotional distress damages may be an option. Your relationship with the pet -- was it a companion animal? a new puppy? will help determine whether emotional distress will be a major part of your claim. For example, losing a new puppy is certainly bad, but if you were bringing it home from the shelter for the first time, the other party could argue that you had no time to get emotionally attached to the pet. A therapy animal, however, would be quite a different situation.
On the practical side, you can always claim for a replacement cost if the animal was killed or seems to be permanently lost. You'll need your original paperwork showing how much you paid for the animal and any services like vaccinations or spay/neutering.
Because adding pet costs to a car accident claim isn't completely straightforward, you will need to talk it over with an experienced auto accident attorney. The attorney will help you gather the paperwork you need to show that the pet was properly restrained, that the car as secured as possible (depending on what happened in the accident), and that the loss or injury of the pet was highly distressing to you.
Visit a website like http://brittattorney.com/ for more help.