Dogs and Home Insurance

Posted by Safeco April 11, 2016
Pets and Liability Coverage

New Pet? Here’s Why You Should Let Your Insurance Agent Know

Your new best friend finally arrived home from the local animal shelter, and he’s taking in his new surroundings, appreciating the softness of his bed and the critters outside the living room window. Meanwhile you’re going over the checklist in your head, again.

Buy treats and food – check. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian – check. Register your pet with the city or county – check. Introduce him to your family, neighbors and even Facebook – check.

But, are you forgetting something? Or rather, someone?

Your independent insurance agent needs to know about your new furry friend, too. That’s because being a pet owner may make you liable for injuries or damages your dog or other pet may cause. In 2014, more than one-third of all payouts on homeowners insurance claims resulted from dog bites and other dog-related injuries, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average cost per claim exceeded $32,000.

Would your insurance cover such a claim? Or would you have to tap into your savings or 401k to cover the costs? As with most things insurance-related, it depends on the specifics of your policy and of the situation itself. So, let’s look at three examples when you may or may not have coverage for a dog bite:

  1. Some coverage: Say you carry the lowest liability limits possible on your home insurance policy and your pet causes someone serious harm. You could exhaust your coverage before the entire claim is paid, meaning your insurance may pay some of the costs but you may have to chip in, too. This could happen, for example, if your liability limit on your homeowners policy is $100,000, but your dog causes $115,000 worth of damage. There’s at least $15,000 worth of damages that your insurance won’t be paying.
  2. Coverage: On the other hand, if you have high liability limits along with an umbrella policy, your coverage will likely go a lot further. Say you’re on the line for the reconstructive surgery, week-long hospital stay and lost wages that someone experiences due to the actions of your dog, and it all totals $750,000. Your homeowners liability may cover up to $500,000, and your umbrella policy may take care of the rest, as it provides liability coverage on top of what your homeowners policy provides.
  3. No coverage: Once a dog is known to be aggressive, your insurance carrier may elect to exclude it from your coverage. Or, you may have to pay more to ensure an aggressive dog – or a breed of dog known to be aggressive – is covered. In other instances, carriers exclude certain breeds no matter the disposition and temperament of the actual animal. If you find yourself in such a situation, your independent insurance agent can help you shop around for replacement coverage.

Hey, we get it. You just can’t imagine your beloved companion causing serious harm. But, even the most socialized and well-behaved pets can lash out when they feel threatened, and medical costs from serious injuries add up quick. So, before it happens, put the insurance coverage you want in place to protect your assets. Your independent insurance agent can help.


Pet Wellness Tips

You want the best for your furry best friend, so review these tips on keeping pets safe in the car, putting together a pet first aid kit and exploring alternative therapies for animals.

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Insurance is offered by Safeco Insurance Company of America and/or its affiliates, with their principal place of business at 175 Berkeley Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02116. This website provides a simplified description of coverage. Nothing stated herein creates a contract. All statements made are subject to the provisions, exclusions, conditions and limitations of the applicable insurance policy. Please refer to actual policy forms for complete details regarding the coverage discussed. If the information in these materials conflicts with the policy language that it describes, the policy language prevails. Coverages and features not available in all states. Eligibility is subject to meeting applicable underwriting criteria.