If you own a dog, you are assuming financial responsibility for everything that dog does. Most dog ownerships, of course, proceed without a serious problem. But what could happen if your dog happened to bite someone?
In that event, you could be sued - and depending on the severity of the bite and the consequences to the dog bite victim, you could wind up with a court entering a judgment against you, forcing you to pay damages. If you don't pay, then the dog bite's victim's lawyers could potentially move to collect the debt by seizing your assets. They could have your wages garnished, bank accounts seized, and even potentially seize your car and foreclose on your home. Absent insurance protection, one dog bit could potentially force you into bankruptcy.
Even cases with no lasting disfigurement can result in a significant cost to the dog owner, without insurance. According to information from the Insurance Information Institute, in 2013 the insurance industry actually paid out nearly half a billion in claims ($483 million) - an increase of 49 percent over the past 10 years. The average cost per claim was $27,862.
Those are just averages. Some cases involving severe injuries can bring judgments and settlements in the mid six figures, and have even gone to the seven-figure range.
Homeowners and Renters Insurance
The first line of defense against dog bite claim liability is generally your homeowners or renters' insurance policy. Your homeowners' policy is critical because up to a third of homeowners insurance claims arise from dog bite incidents, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Note: Most residential policies cover liability arising from dog bites; however, it's best to check your policy for exclusions or limitations that may apply.
Unfortunately, even a good homeowners insurance policy by itself is not generally enough to protect you from liability arising from the more severe dog bite incidents. Most homeowners policies will come with between $100,000 and $500,000 in liability insurance. However, check your policy to find out if there are any caps, breed rules or exclusions.
If you do have a dog bite claim against you that's bigger than your homeowners' policy can handle, That's when a second line of defense kicks in: "Umbrella" liability coverage. An umbrella insurance plan acts as an important safety net - it functions as a 'catch all' to protect you against risks and liabilities that overwhelm the coverage enacted by your primary insurance carriers. For dog bite claims beyond your primary insurance coverage amounts, these companies become the primary insurers against the truly catastrophic dog bite claims - the ones that result in permanent disfigurement of the victim, disability or death.
Umbrella coverage isn't limited to dog-bite claims, of course. These policies are designed as 'catch-alls' to help protect you against a broad array of possible risks.
You may want to check out Protect what’s important with a Travelers Umbrella PLUS® Policy.
If you have questions or concerns on this issue, do not hesitate to call Zeiler Insurance and speak to one of our customer service representatives. As an independent agency, Zeiler Insurance prides itself with quality customer service for the people of the Chicago-land area and the rest of the Midwest. Customer or not, we can review your insurance and see if you are being protected appropriately for the right price.