Dog-Owners' Liability Insurance 101

How to Cover Yourself if Your Pet Hurts Someone or Damages Property

Dog-Owners' Liability Insurance 101
April 21, 2015

Dogs bring joy to the lives of their owners almost every day. Occasionally, though, some dogs will injure another person or damage the property of others. These circumstances can cause hefty financial damage to those who do not have proper liability insurance that covers their pets.

How to Protect Yourself Financially

Insurance can be purchased to limit your liability in the event that your dog causes harm to someone or their property. The best place to start looking is with the types of insurance you already have. In fact, you may already be covered without knowing it.

Check Out Your Existing Insurance

Many homeowners and renters insurance policies either cover or can include the option, through a rider, to cover pet liability issues. Some insurers charge an extra fee for the coverage, while others include it in the base cost of the policy. Call your current insurance provider to see if you are presently insured or if you can add coverage to your policy.

You should be cautious when considering coverage through renters or homeowners insurance policies, as many dog breeds may be excluded from the coverage offered, and other restrictions may exist. Typical breeds excluded include the following, but check with your insurance provider for your particular situation.

  • Boxers
  • Akitas
  • Chow Chows
  • German Shepherds
  • Rottweilers
  • Great Danes
  • Huskies
  • Pit Bills
  • Dobermans
  • Wolf Hybrids
Purchase Additional Insurance as Necessary

If your homeowners or renters insurance does not offer a pet liability insurance rider or you feel the limits are not high enough, you may want to consider buying additional coverage. People most commonly use umbrella insurance for additional liability coverage.

Umbrella insurance acts like a back-up insurance policy for many different types of liabilities after your underlying insurance has been maxed out. However, like with homeowners and renters insurance, umbrella policies can vary widely from insurer to insurer and pet liability may be excluded.

You will want to make sure that these policies will cover your specific breed of dog. Additionally, you will want to ensure that you currently have the required amount of insurance on your underlying policies for the umbrella policy to cover you fully. If you do not, then you may be left on the hook for a hefty portion of the damages.

Alternatives to Traditional Insurance Policies

If you cannot get a traditional insurance policy to cover your needs, then you may want to take a look at canine liability policies. Some specialty insurance providers offer these policies, but they are not common and often come at a much higher price than if you had purchased insurance through a more general policy. However, if you own a breed of dog that is often excluded, canine liability insurance may be your only choice.

Make sure to investigate the insurance company underwriting your policy to feel confident that they have the financial strength and stability to pay out any potential claims you may have to make. You will also want to read the policy closely so you can understand any exclusions or other requirements stated in the policy.

Just like with any type of insurance, it is too late to add coverage once damage has been done or someone has been injured. You must have one of these types of insurance before the event in order to protect your finances.

Covering yourself for dog liability issues will give you peace of mind and the insurance is normally inexpensive. Do not skip this coverage or a dog bite may take a big chunk of your savings.

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