Most dog owners are fiercely devoted to their animals and treat them like a member of the family. However, owning a dog does increase your liability risk, no matter how well behaved you think they are. Even a minor incident can result in a lawsuit.
Dog-Related Liability Claims Common
A dog can bite when it feels threatened, scared, startled, stressed, unwell, or even during play. Even well-behaved, trained dogs can act out and bite or damage someone’s property. This can lead to a lengthy, costly lawsuit, steep medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering and lost income, and punitive damages if you’re found negligent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that dogs bite approximately 4.5 million people annually, or 1 in 72 people. Young children and seniors are the most likely victims.
From an insurance perspective, owning a dog is high-risk since dog-related damages account for over a third of all homeowner’s liability claims and come with a very large price tag. In 2017, these claims cost insurers almost $700 million.
Homeowner’s Insurance Policies Offer Little or No Coverage
Your California homeowner’s insurance policy may offer limited coverage for dog-related incidents, but many policies exclude animal liability coverage. Some homeowner’s insurance policies exclude breeds they consider dangerous such as Pit Bulls, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds, so it is very important to review your policy with your insurance agent before picking out your next four-legged-friend.
Claims Can Cost You Dearly
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the national cost per claim increased more than 90 percent from 2003 to 2017. Larger court settlements and awards to the plaintiffs, plus ever-increasing medical costs suggest this trend will continue. In 2017, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims in California was a whopping $40,563 and our state had the most claims.
Dog Liability Insurance Coverage
If your homeowner’s policy limits coverage or does not provide it all, many carriers offer separate dog liability policies. Some insurers specialize in coverage for dogs considered too vicious for other carriers, too.
Dog liability insurance provides financial protection if someone files a claim against you. It is important to remember that the average claim amount mentioned above could easily reach 6-figures if your dog seriously harms another person. Medical bills grow quickly and certainly aren’t getting any cheaper. If your pet causes loss of life and/or destroys expensive property, you could pay much, much more.
Like any other insurance product, policy limits vary as does cost. Rely on our independent insurance agents for unbiased advice. Partee Insurance Associates has helped California households protect their interests since 1972. So if you’re in need of proper dog liability coverage, talk to us.