Why Are Dogs a Homeowner Liability Risk?

    That cute 8 week old puppy you bought for the kid’s, maybe isn’t powerful enough to hurt someone now but what if when he is 3 years old or 7 years old? Your house is at risk, whether you realize it or not, as that is where your liability insurance is.

   Most homeowner’s don’t pay attention to this part of their home insurance coverage and that is a huge mistake – especially for dog owners. The common mistake is that insurance agents & brokers will sell them $100,000 (standard) of liability coverage or $300,000  (the new standard) of liability coverage without asking enough questions!

   If they would ask if you had a dog or found out later you “adopted” one, raising your liability limits to $500,000 or $1,000,000 while protecting your home, is often $15-$30 more per year! Cheap protection for the added risk you just took on by getting “Bella” for the kids.

My Dog is so Calm, This would never happen!

  It won’t happen to you? We have a client, going through a divorce, so the 8 year old daughter was at her Mom’s house, visiting for the day. The 8 year old accidentally sat down on the sofa, right on a sleeping “Molly”.  “Molly” startled out of a sound sleep, woke up and bit her on the face! The Dad is now suing his Ex for injuries to his daughter, from a dog that was common to the family prior to the divorce! This dog had previously lived with the injured daughter and knew her! Direct claim from the files at our insurance agency.

Why Are Dogs a Homeowner Liability Risk?

The Mailman Gets It!

We also had a client, who’s 6 year old golden retriever (this breed doesn’t bite, right?), nipped at the mailman as he reached over the gate to drop the mail in the box. This dog had no prior biting history and wasn’t an aggressive dog either. But what happened next surprised us, as that insurance company denied coverage due to what they said was material misrepresentation” (we have since fired that insurance company, refusing to represent them). There is a dog question on every homeowner insurance application and the insured’s had checked the box NO, when asked if they owned a dog. Because it was a signed, legal contract, the insurance company deemed it a misrepresentation.

It happened in my own family too!

  In an incident that happened 3 years ago, my own 88 year old Dad was “dog sitting” for a few hours while the new next door neighbors went to a wedding. Walking next door to let the 2 dogs out a couple of times and then once to go over and feed them their evening feeding. Because the one Pomeranian was eating but the other wasn’t, my Dad crouched down with food to entice “fluffy”. Well, ‘fluffy” wanted my Dad’s thumb instead of the food! Blood spilled everywhere, according to my step-mom. She tried to get the bleeding to stop for over 45 minutes and finally went to the emergency room to stop the blood. An eighth of an inch off the end of my Dad’s thumb was taken off and 11 stitches to close up the tear. Now the end of his right thumb is gone forever due to the neighbors “safe” little dog. The lawsuit is still pending (they usually take 2-3 years to settle these things), so no financial results yet.

Two dog bites for my family!

  These crazy dog incidents happen and it has happened 2x in my own family. My daughter got bit on the face when she was 8 years old by a friend’s coonhound, un-prevoked. I’ll let her share her story here:

  “I was stuffing a back-pack on the floor getting ready for camping, since Mrs. White was one of the Girl Scout  leaders and was going to be at camp with us. “Todd” was outside but I never paid any attention, as I was at the White’s house 10 or 12 other time before. “Todd” was a jumper but never very aggressive with me, when I was over there. Then, when a child of the White’s other children opened the back door and let “Todd” in from the yard. “Todd” charged right at me, as I was on the floor and ripped at my face, tearing open my cheek. I think I must have been in shock, as I never cried and never realized I had blood streaming down my cheeks, until Mrs. White screamed in shock and disbelief. She rushed me to the emergency room and they had to call a plastic surgeon in to closed the tear and 1 other hole in my cheek. I think I took 19 stitches in my face that day and it hurt for quite a while I remember. A permanent scar is now on my right cheek due to this dog’s biting”.

Way too many claims in our insurance files!

  As an insurance professional, I see too many incidents that you wouldn’t thought possible. You think “well my dog is 7 years old and never has done anything yet” but you never know when they “snap”. It could be just playing with a ball and they nip in excitement. Or your kids are jumping in and out of the pool and the dog doesn’t like it. Or the dog could be startled, like the 8 year old who sat on the sleeping dog’s tail – a dog she knew!

  We have even more stories to tell but I think you get the point – you never can tell when “Fido” will get aggressive with friends, family or neighbors. It happens. So now that you know it happens, what are you going to do about it? The aware homeowner will talk to an insurance professional about this and make sure they are properly covered. Even discussing a possible personal umbrella insurance policy, which gives an added $1,000,000 of liability protection over and above the home insurance policy.

Personal Umbrella Insurance is one answer.

This personal umbrella insurance policy doesn’t just come in handy for dog owners but homes with pools, diving boards, pool slides and trampolines – higher risk factors for injuries. Accidents in and around a home do happen, as we see it in my insurance agency and the better informed you are, the better you can protect yourself.

  I am always telling people “be a smart insurance consumer” and that means being educated. My office tries to educate our clients on all their risk factors and offer choices. Some choose to take the advice given and some choose to take the risk. We are here to help you buy insurance, not to sell it to you. Owning a dog on its own does NOT increase your homeowner rates but does increase your home risk factors, as you can see.

Why Are Dogs a Homeowner Liability Risk?

  Being educated offers you the decision to make for your situation and your family. We help you protect what is important to you. If you need help in New York (only state we are licensed in) with a homeowner policy GO HERE.