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When you bring a new pet into your family, there are some obvious concerns. The dog’s temperament, vaccinations, and how the family will adjust to the new addition are just some of them. However, the most important question you should ask yourself is, does my homeowner’s insurance cover my dog? Well, to know how adding a dog to your household affects your homeowners’ insurance policy, do read on.
As you’re well aware, a homeowner’s insurance policy covers damages to your home and personal property in a dire event. Fortunately, your insurance also covers personal liability and medical payments coverage. This is important, especially if someone suffers an injury on your property and needs medical care or decides to sue you.
If there’s a situation where your dog has bitten a passerby or neighbor, it’s an unpleasant situation no matter how you look at it. Probably, your homeowners’ insurance will cover liability for the damages your dog has done. It’s important to take responsibility if your dog has harmed someone else. But at the same time, don’t let it stress you — this is why you have homeowners insurance. And, the odds are they will cover the costs of the situation.
Understand your insurance policy
If you want to be completely sure, it’s crucial that you have a thorough meeting with an insurance agent, preferably before a dog bite happens. Homeowners insurance is incredibly important to avoid lawsuits and costly situations later.
Look for policies that will cover expensive damage to your property. Oftentimes, these insurance policies will cover the cost of theft if items are stolen from your insured property.
While these are the primary concerns that consumers look at when searching for a fair insurance plan, they might overlook the option to purchase homeowner liability coverage or renters insurance. This is crucial in the case of someone else being hurt on or by your property (like in the case of a dog bite).
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Does owning a dog increase your homeowners’ insurance?
It’s a common practice for homeowners insurance companies to specifically exclude dog bites from their coverage limit. But, your homeowners’ insurance will have some liability coverage already included. At that point, it’s the consumer’s job to research the amounts of liability coverage. In most cases, liability policies like these will take into account damages caused by pets, like a dog.
A dog owner should definitely increase their liability insurance coverage. In case your insurance does not offer this option, you can purchase supplemental insurance from another source. If you purchase it from these external sources, the insurance policies will usually cover your dog’s damage costs anywhere — even if it’s not on your property.
Do I have to tell my homeowners’ insurance that I have a dog?
Yes. If your homeowners’ insurance broker or insurance carrier asks you, as part of your homeowners’ insurance application, whether or not you have a dog, you must tell the truth. Also, the breed of dog you have.
It’s crucial that you sit down with your insurance agent before signing to a specific insurance company. Understand the terms and conditions for your homeowners’ insurance regarding pet ownership. Specifically, breed-specific exclusions.
Understand the policy exclusions of specific dog breeds
If your homeowners’ insurance already lists dog bites as an exclusion in your policy, you can look into third-party private insurance companies that offer insurance for pets. Understand that dog bite claims can be very expensive. If you have to cover the cost of a dog bite liability claim on your own, it can mean a lot of money out of pocket.
If you have multiple pets or particularly aggressive pets, these third party insurance plans are worth the cost. They are typically a few hundred dollars annually and only cover your dog. This can be a small investment considering that liability coverage in dog bite cases can sometimes be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you own a dog or planning to get one, you should be aware of your homeowners’ insurance regarding dog breed restrictions. Generally, most insurances do not cover dogs such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman, Chows, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Akita, and some wolf-dog hybrids. The reason is, sadly, that these are wrongly tagged as dangerous breeds. For such dogs, it could be more expensive for you, as a dog owner, to gain insurance coverage. These breeds are typically associated with higher insurance premiums.
Understand that insurance laws vary by area
It’s important to consider that dog bite rules and laws vary from one country or state to another within the U.S. What may be a strict liability law for dog bite compensation may not exist in the next state.
In some cases, you might not be compensated if:
- You provoked the dog to attack
- You were trespassing on the property of the dog owner
- If you already knew the dog was violent
Many states also have the statute of limitations that last only a couple years. So, if you’re a dog bite victim, you have a fixed time limit to file a case in court. Timely legal action will help compensate for your expenses.
Even though there are no universal rules for dog bite laws, it’s up to you to research and educate yourself on the same. And also, what to do if one occurs to you or someone else.
Sometimes, a dog-bite victim doesn’t want to take legal action out of sheer concern for the economic hardship that the dog owner will have to face, particularly if the owner is a neighbor or friend.
And, if you’re the one who’s been bitten by a dog, it’s best to get in touch with a dog bite attorney as soon as possible. An attorney that specializes in dog bites and personal injury law can help you navigate through the process. They will help you get fair compensation from the pet owner.
Thankfully, in most cases, the animal owner doesn’t have to pay for medical bills or other bills out of their own pocket as long as they have homeowners’ insurance that covers dog-related injuries. In such a case, they can file a claim and save a lot of money as well as hassles.