YOU ASK:

How can having a dog affect homeowners insurance?

WE ANSWER:

Insurance companies consider dog owners high liability risk clients. This is not surprising, given the high percentage of dog-bite incidents - around 5 million nationwide every year. Dog-bite claims constitute a considerable share of all liability claims, with dog owners having to pay injury compensation amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.

So, as you see, cute though dogs can be, they may cause other people a lot of pain and suffering, and as a result, cost you a fortune in third-party injury damages.

The good news is that your Homeowners insurance provides special liability coverage, including protection against dog-bite liability. The bad news is that you can lose your homeowners insurance policy if your dog bites somebody.

Dogs - Home Owners' Friends or Foes?

Dogs are great fun to have and can bring you a lot of positive emotions. However, they can leave you in a financial mess if they attack another person. Once a dog-bite liability claim is filed against you, your insurance provider will pay the damages on your behalf, as agreed in the insurance contract.

However, as a result of the claim, your insurer will most probably raise your premium considerably, or add a dog bite liability exclusion to your existing policy. Even worse, the insurance company may refuse to renew your policy unless you get rid of your four-legged pal... and finding a new home insurance policy with a dog-bite claim under your belt can be a mission impossible to achieve.

Some insurance companies insure themselves against loss by making owners of dogs considered vicious pay higher insurance costs or restrain them with chains or muzzles.

Homeowners Insurance and Dog Owner Liability

Depending on the state, dog owner liability laws can be more lenient or harsher:

  • In states enforcing negligence laws, liability is imposed if a dog owner is determined to have exercised gross negligence resulting in a dog bite.
  • Other states only impose liability on dog owners who are proven to have been aware of the possibility that their dog may bite other people.
  • Most of the states apply the the strict liability law according to which dog owners are automatically liable by virtue of being the owner of the dog.
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