He’s your best friend — the first one to greet you at the door after a long day, and the one who snuggles up close when you climb into bed. But once you open your home up to a dog, you also need to open your homeowners’ insurance up to him, too. But why?
Homeowners’ insurance doesn’t just cover your belongings if they’re damaged in a storm or in a fire. Your policy also includes liability coverage — meaning that you won’t have to personally foot the bills if someone is ever injured in your home.
And, yes, your insurance company looks at Fido as a potential liability.
No matter how sweet and loveable he is, there’s always a chance that Fido could bite someone. If he does — and you’ve opted for dog liability coverage — your insurance policy will kick in. That way, whether your friend needs a trip to the emergency room for stitches, or he decides to sue you over the bite, you’re covered.
But is this coverage something you really need to worry about?
Your wallet may not like the fact that you’re opting for additional insurance coverage, but the slight increase you pay in monthly premiums will be well worth it if the worst happens. And if you think the odds of your dog injuring someone are slim, think again. Dog bites are one of the most common liability claims made, and it’s estimated that insurance companies paid out a whopping $483 million in dog bite liability claims in 2013.
OK, so how much coverage will you have if you decide to opt for this coverage?
It depends on the limits of your specific policy. When you first buy your policy, you’ll choose all kinds of limits — and one of the limits you’ll select is the amount of coverage you want in case Fido’s chompers cause a problem.
You’ll also get plenty of bang for your buck because this coverage won’t just apply inside your home. In most cases, your homeowners insurance will kick in if Fido decides to bite someone at the park or while you’re out for a walk around the neighborhood.
What if Fido bites another dog?
Most insurance policies specify that only human injuries are covered. So, if Fido gets into a fight with the dog down the street, your insurance company probably won’t pay for the other dog’s vet bills.
Does Fido’s breed matter?
Remember, insurance companies set their rates based on the amount of risk they think you pose. If they think there’s a good chance you’ll file a claim at some point, they’ll charge you more in monthly premiums.
That same risk approach is used to determine your dog liability coverage rates. Your insurance company will likely charge more if your dog is a certain breed — like a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, or a Doberman, for example. Or, if they think your dog poses too much of a risk, they may refuse to include dog liability in your policy altogether.
Besides the breed, what else affects the premiums you pay for this coverage?
Many insurance companies adhere to the “one bite rule”. As the name suggests, you’ll have coverage if your dog bites someone once, but after that, you could be on your own. After that first bite, your insurance company may drop Fido’s coverage altogether, or your premiums may skyrocket so high that you simply can’t afford to keep the coverage.
If you’re looking to save money on Fido’s coverage, see if your insurance company will accept a certificate from doggie obedience school. If they can see that Fido has been properly trained, they may be willing to lower your rates — or even add your so-called “dangerous breed” to the policy when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Just remember, every insurance company works a little bit differently. Just because one refuses to cover Fido — or refuses to cover him at an affordable rate — doesn’t mean that every company will. This is why having an agent shop around for you is so important!
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