We are fond of referring to our dogs as “good boy” or “good girl,” but sometimes their behavior leaves a lot to be desired. Regardless of how well trained your dog is, he might be provoked to attack someone, and if that happens, you are liable. After all, since the dog is not rational, it is up to you as the owner to restrain him lest you are guilty of negligence. Such cases are the reason why your dog needs liability insurance. Considering that victims of dog attacks can claim compensation amounting to millions, you should not underestimate how dog liability insurance prevents you from paying out of pocket for medical bills. Let’s get into the details of dog liability insurance.
What is Dog Liability Insurance?
Dog liability insurance is a third-party coverage that protects you if your dog causes injuries to another person or damages their property. Since it is third-party, it means that you and your family are not covered should your dog inflict harm on you or your family members. Besides the financial compensation in terms of medical bills or repair of damages, dog liability insurance covers legal expenses when the victim opts to sue you.
It comes in handy because, according to Xinsurance, it will cover all expenses and any amount that the judge or jury awards but only up to the policy limit. Without it, you could end up going bankrupt, given that the average dog claim bite is about $36,000, with some states going as high as $59,000. So if your dog is on a rampage and bites several people, without dog liability insurance covering you, you could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Are You Always Liable for Any Injuries Your Dog Causes?
In most states, you will not be liable if the dog injures a trespasser, but few instances make you accountable regardless. According to Insurance Information Institute, some states have the dog-bite statute holding you liable for such injuries whether or not the dog is usually aggressive. In others, there is the one-bite rule where you will be liable if you knew the dog could cause the injuries. Still, others have negligence laws such that if you were negligent and the dog caused injuries or damages, you would be held accountable for the dog’s actions.
Since we have already discussed how expensive the claim can get, it is best to have a high limit policy. It would be best if you aimed for a cover with at least $100,000 for liability and $5,000 for no-fault medical expenses. The ideal policy is, however, one with at least $300,000 for liability. Unfortunately, since it is difficult to have one comprehensive policy with such a high limit, most dog owners seek several insurance covers. You can have the primary dog liability insurance and secondary policy such as the umbrella policy.
Without the dog liability or home insurance policy covering you and members of your household, the importance of umbrella insurance cover should not be underestimated. Unlike dog liability insurance that is third-party insurance, umbrella insurance is personal liability insurance. It covers in excess of the regular homeowners or dog liability insurance. You should, however, note that it is limited to injury only and does not pay for damage to your property. The best thing about umbrella insurance for you as a dog you only have to part with between $250 and $300 annually to get coverage worth $1 million.
Not Every Dog Qualifies for Insurance
If you own a dog that is considered to be generally aggressive, most insurance companies will not offer you the homeowners insurance cover. Some of the common breeds blacklisted as listed by Pets World include Chow Chow, Bull Terrier, and Pit Bulls among others. However, there is no need to worry because you have an option with the Federation of Insured Dog Owners. The organization was launched to cater to all dog owners, covering all dog breeds at affordable premiums. FIDO resulted from a dog owner who realized that most homeowners policies do not have full coverage of animal liability and exclude certain breeds. According to Insurance Journal, Debbie Turner founded FIDO and came up with Covered Canine insurance policy. All you need to benefit from FIDO is to become a member by paying a membership fee annually and as little as $75 per year in premiums.
Some Insurance Companies Do Not Discriminate Based on Dog Breed
Besides FIDO, other insurance companies will not care if you own a dog listed in the blacklisted category. They only look at a specific dog’s bite and aggression history. Such insurers include State Farm, Nationwide, Amica, Chubb, Fireman’s, and USAA. According to United Policyholders, State Farm does not discriminate against dog breeds because the physical appearance of dogs is what is used to determine a breed. Yet, the physical appearance is not accurate to determine the risk.
The insurer reasons that a dog, regardless of physical appearance, can bite out of fear, which does not automatically qualify the canine as dangerous or aggressive. Other insurers support State Farm’s opinion saying that those that do not cover dogs based on breed fail to consider how some pet owners are keen on training their dogs and socializing them. Such failure to provide insurance for the blacklisted dogs also impacts their adoption rates as no pet owner wants to have a dog that will make it hard to obtain homeowners insurance.
Besides, blacklisting based on the breed has been frowned upon for being unfair because mixed dog breeds still could get insurance even when a significant percentage of the mix comes from the aggressive breed. The goal should be to reduce dog bites because the insurers will make lucrative profits premiums even then. Instead of casting out certain breeds, insurance companies are encouraged to educate dog owners on being responsible and teach the dogs how to interact safely with all pets.
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