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  • R Griffin

Free Advice Friday-Dog Bites and Homeowners Insurance

Here is something that you may not be aware of as a homeowner and pet owner.

Did you know that if your dog bites someone, it has to be covered by your insurance?

While most homeowners aren't aware of this fact, for insurance companies dog bite claims are becoming more prevalent than that tic toc star your children are always talking about.

These claims aren't coming in cheap either.

Dog bite liability claims are becoming a multimillion-dollar problem for Home insurance companies In 2019 alone, the total dog bite claims for insurance nearly topped 800 million dollars. Last year, while the total number of claims went down, the total cost of claims for insurance companies went up 7% to nearly 850 million dollars.

On the homeowners side, the average cost per claim rose a whopping 12% topping out at an average of $50,245, up from $44,760 a year ago.

So what does this mean for you the insurance consumer?

Where insurance buyers, and keepers of home insurance will see the most changes is in the underwriting of their home insurance policies. Insurance companies have strict guidelines on what policies they can and cannot write depending on the breed of dog you own.

Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, non-renew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage. In an effort to mitigate claims some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers and others are not offering insurance to dog owners at all.

So what should you do?

The first thing any homeowner should do would be to get a good look at your home insurance policy, and make sure you are covered in the event of a dog bite. You can do this by contacting your current agent getting them to go over it with you.

Secondly, if you would like to be fully protected, looking into an personal umbrella policy would be a great choice. The amount of umbrella liability coverage usually ranges from $1 million to $10 million, and covers broad types of liability. Most insurance companies have required minimum amounts of underlying coverage—typically at least $250,000 of protection from your auto policy and $300,000 of protection from your homeowners policy. Personal excess liability insurance is relatively inexpensive. The first $1 million of coverage costs about $150 to $300 per year, the second million about $75, and subsequent increments of $1 million cost about $50 per year.

Lastly, it really just comes down to being a responsible pet owner. The most dangerous dogs are those that fall victims to human shortcomings such as poor training, irresponsible ownership and breeding practices that foster viciousness or neglect and abuse.

To reduce the chances of a dog biting, the following steps are recommended by the CDC when getting a dog:

  • Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and neighborhood.

  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home of with an infant or toddler. Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children.

  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.

  • Have your dog spayed or neutered. Studies show that dogs are three times more likely to bite if they are NOT neutered.

  • Socialize your dog so that it knows how to act with other people and animals.

  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.

  • Play non-aggressive games with your dog, such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.

If you would like an insurance professional to look over your policy, or are looking into getting a personal umbrella policy, feel free to contact us with any questions.

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