IA Newsletter, October 2012
Home Insurance for Dog Owners
In This Newsletter
Depending on what breed of dog you own, where you live and your insurance company, it could be difficult to buy a Home Insurance Policy that includes liability for your dog.
Roughly 39 percent of American households have at least one dog, according to The Humane Society of the United States. But as the costs of dog-bite litigation spiral, some home insurance companies are refusing to write coverage for owners of certain breeds. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), dog-bite claims account for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, costing insurers about $479 million in 2011, up 16 percent from the previous year.
While there might not be an industry-wide "blacklist" of breeds, it's best to check with your agent before you buy certain dog breeds. According to the Lester Kalmanson Agency Inc. — which sells liability insurance to owners of dogs commonly identified as "dangerous breeds" — the list could include:
Some home insurance companies have lists of breeds and crossbreeds they will not insure; other insurers consider such breeds on a case-by-case basis, or charge more for certain "biting" breeds such as pit bulls. Some home insurers require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites.
In Michigan and Pennsylvania, it's illegal for home insurers to deny coverage simply because a home has a dog of a particular breed, according to III.
Dog bite history
But other insurers may cancel or refuse to renew an existing home insurance policy, decline your application for a new one or attach an exclusion for the dog to the policy — if your dog has even one attack in its history. The exclusion means the insurance policy would not cover any liability claims caused by the dog, making you personally responsible for any medical bills or lawsuits stemming from your dog's actions.
Prevention is the best way to avoid home insurance claims
Don't put your dog in situations where it will be threatened or teased. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, man's best friend bites more than 4.7 million people in the U.S. each year. Roughly 800,000 of those people seek medical attention. Almost half of them are children who might not be aware that their behavior is threatening to dogs.
If there's a bite
Once the victim is taken care of, you might have to contact the local authorities to report the dog bite. You should then call your home insurance company, especially if there are medical costs involved. Be sure to cooperate with your insurance company. The claims adjuster will no doubt want to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Take steps to make sure a similar incident doesn't happen. That might mean building a fence around your yard or sending your dog to obedience school. When all else fails, a certified animal trainer might help.
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