I recently received this question from a distraught dog owner. If you know me, I am a dog lover. Click here to read an obituary I wrote when Mugzie passed away. To some folks, the death of their dog can cause more pain than the death of a human, and this issue brings up the question of compensation if your dog dies in a car accident.
Here is the story.
You were involved in a car wreck and in the wreck your dog died. Your dog was your best friend and buddy –the insurance adjuster offered you a couple hundred dollars to replace your buddy. The insurance adjuster told you that she is only responsible to pay for the fair market value of your dog, just like if your watch broke in the accident. You can't believe that your dog is treated just like a piece of property under the law and you would like to know if the adjuster is right?
In most states, even though it's cruel and uncaring, the answer is yes. Pets are considered personal property and the measure of loss is the fair market value. You may be saying what about the sentimental and emotional value of my dog's passing? I know your pain.
The Indiana Court of Appeals looked at the emotional loss associated with the death of a pet and said:
As beloved pets, have a certain “worth” or “value” beyond their market value, we do not take them to be support for the notion that under the law a dog owner may recover more than the fair market value of the dog when killed.
However unfeeling it may seem, the bottom line is that a dog is considered personal property under the law, and the measure of damages for the destruction of personal property is the fair market value at the time of the loss.
I'm sorry to say that the insurance adjuster is correct and she is only responsible for the fair market value of your pet.