For argument sake- your dog is named Fido.
Now we know that your dog Fido is going to be the best doggie ever. Of all the dogs in the world- Fido will be the cutest, most well behaved, polite, and best smelling dog at the dog park. When the doorbell rings, Fido will never get hyper. When some one comes over, Fido won’t jump up on them or pee unexpectedly. When the UPS truck or mail truck goes by, Fido won’t ever bark or growl or chase after it. At the dog park- if a random dude throws a ball for his own dog- Fido won’t chase after it- because Fido will know that it is not HIS ball. And if you’re running with your friends at the dog park you will always, always, always watch out for the humans and run around them- because you know that they are chatting and drinking their Starbucks and have their backs turned to you.
Fido will be amazing.
But those other dogs- well- I hate to break it to you… dogs bite about 4.5 million people every year. 20% of those bites are serious enough that the person who got the bite has to go and get some kind of emergency medical attention.
3 main reasons for an insurance claim
Your homeowners insurance policy (or condo/renters insurance) has a little “bucket” of money earmarked for liability coverage. That’s the money that protects you in case you get sued for something (classic example- someone slips on your sidewalk). But did you know that approximately 1/3 of all of the liability money in property insurance policies paid out annually in the US goes to pet owner claims? In fact in 2018- the average insurance claim paid out for pet liability was $39,017. These claims generally happen one of three ways:
- Your pet bites a human.
- Your pet injures someone else’s pet.
- Your pet injures another human- by knocking them down. Typically, this is a child, a bicyclist, an elderly person, or someone at a dog park who had their back turned to a wild, running pack of dogs.
Make sure you are protected
- If your pet injures someone- you are liable (at fault) for the damages. This might mean paying for someone’s stitches or another dogs vet bills. If you have a homeowners/condo/renters insurance policy- your “liability bucket” will kick in and pay for this- as long as your insurance company knows about your dog and does not prohibit your dog’s breed.
- Some insurance companies refuse to protect your liability if you own certain breeds of dogs. Others will allow all breeds as long as they do not have a bite history. If you have a “high risk” dog breed with a bite history- you may have a difficult time obtaining homeowners/condo/renters insurance.
- When you adopt a pet- if it is a dog- it is important to contact your insurance agent to let them know that you need to add your dog to the policy.
- If your insurance company will not accept your dog breed, you may want to shop around for a new insurance company (unless you are going to get rid of your pet!)
How much protection do you need?
- Most property policies come standard with a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance. You will be able to purchase more coverage into your liability “bucket”.
- Dog owners are responsible for any amount that goes above the limit stated on your insurance policy. Although the average bite claim in 2018 was only $39,000- that takes into account a lot of smaller claims that were only a few hundred dollars for stitches. Given that, it is often a good idea for homeowners and renters with dogs to either increase their liability coverage and even consider purchasing an Umbrella policy.
Who is covered by my home insurance policy?
- A standard homeowners or renters policy will cover spouses and dependents who are under the age of 21 years of age who live at the address the policy is written for.
- If any of these people are with the pet at the time of the incident, the insurance policy will cover them if they are sued because of damages (unless they did something criminal to cause the attack)
- Because they are benefiting from the policy- if they are the “victim” of the attack, they will not be able to file a claim on themselves.
The Final Word
If you have a dog or are planning on adopting a dog and you live in a home or a condo- you likely already have a homeowners or condo policy- because you probably have a mortgage and your mortgage requires one.
But if you live in a place that you do not own- such as an apartment, duplex, your boyfriends house where you don’t pay rent, or even your parents house- you should have a renters policy. Renters policies are relatively inexpensive and the liability coverage they give you are well worth it if you are a dog owner. Yes- you can (and should) get a renters policy if you are over 18 and live with your parents or another relative who doesn’t charge you rent- read this post here for more reasons why.