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Progressive Says Protect Your Pet With Injury Insurance!

Paris Hilton with her Chihuahua
Big Pictures
Paris Hilton with her Chihuahua

Shares of Progressive Insurance's parent company are up 15 percent in a month. That's progressively better after a progressively bad year. The company is now trying to be "progressive" (ok, I'll stop) in other ways.

For example, it's funding a $10 million X prize for the development of a car that goes 100 miles on a gallon of gas, but only if the car is one that people would actually buy. Not sure how this helps insurance companies, but, hey, whatever. That's nice.

And then there's this. The other night I saw a TV commercial promoting Progressive's "Pet Injury Coverage." Here's the link.

Now, if your Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, you don't have to worry about your medical bills. Nor do you worry if you're Leona Helmsley's dog, Trouble, who inherited $12 million (the dog got more money than the grandkids). But dog lovers of more modest means can now buy insurance to cover pets in a car accident.

Progressive says that pet injuries are usually covered by liability policies, but only by the person who's at fault. So it's offering $500 worth of coverage as part of every COLLISION policy, money that will go toward vet bills no matter whose at fault in the accident. Why is the dog in the collision category, like the bumper? "It may seem insensitive to consider the four-legged members of your family as property," the company says, "but insurance policies designate bodily injury coverage for humans only.

All other damages in an accident--including your pet's injuries--are considered property damage." By the way, the pet policies are not available in North Carolina and New Hampshire. What's up with that?

I see pet accident insurance as another sign the clout of the family pet is growing faster than any other member of the family. Pets used to live outside and eat whatever they could catch. Now many live inside and eat gourmet food served at the dinner table. Pet health insurance is a booming business. People have no problem paying for dialysis or chemo for a cat who is, well, past her prime. Accident insurance is a natural next step.

Still, insurance companies are in the business of making money, not paying out claims. How can they make more money and pay fewer claims? INSIST THE PETS WEAR SEATBELTS. Mark my words.

Some questions. If the collision involves the pet, but not the car, is he covered? I mean, if a dog sticks his head out the window to smell the wind and his head hits a mailbox, but the car does not, are his injuries covered? I ask this as the owner of a lovable but none-too-bright basset hound. Probably moot anyhow. You hit a mailbox at 30 mph, and it's probably time to call the pet coroner to take him to the pet cemetery and pay for a pet funeral.

And is the pet covered if he's driving the car?

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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