Make Sure You Have Animal Coverage Under Your Homeowner’s Policy

Whether you own or rent a home, an apartment or a condominium, if you own a dog, cat, bird, snake or other animal as a part of your family you need to carefully review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to make sure there is not an animal exclusion clause under the policy. Many homeowner’s or renter’s insurance companies routinely make these clauses part of their policies, which can leave you with a very serious problem if someone is injured due to your animal attacking, biting, scratching or otherwise injuring another person.

While shopping for a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance the insurance agent may try to convince you to reduce your premiums by dropping this coverage from your policy. However, it is essential that you do not exclude this important coverage from your policy, as you may regret that decision if and when your pet injures someone and you have no insurance coverage to protect you.

Before your insurance can exclude animal coverage under your policy, they have to verbally advise that you are opting to exclude this coverage and have you sign an animal exclusion form as part of your contract. An unethical agent may not verbally explain what you are signing however, which is why the old adage that you do not sign any legal papers before you have read and understood them is always good and sound advice.

If your pet injures someone more than likely they will file a claim with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. However, if you signed an animal exclusion clause for your policy, your insurance will deny to indemnify you (pay the claim) or refuse to defend you against any resulting claims or lawsuits by the injured person. For instance, you are out walking your dog and as a careful and law abiding person you have your dog on a leash, when you see a neighbor’s child who approaches you and asks if she can pet your dog. Your dog has always been friendly towards others, especially small children, so you allow her to do so. As the small child reaches out to pet your dog he unexpectedly lunges forward and bites the child on the face. You call 911 from the scene and watch horrified as this small child is transported by ambulance to the local hospital emergency room for treatment.

If you excluded animal coverage from your homeowner’s or renter’s policy you would be personally responsible for all the medical expenses of the small child, including the ambulance bill, ER hospital bill, ER doctor bill, radiology bill, plastic surgeon bill and all subsequent medical bills, which may include psychologist/psychiatrist bills for any emotional trauma. Further, the dog bite victim may have permanent and significant scarring which is part of the claim for any dog bite injuries. Beyond these expenses, if the injured party hires an attorney, you could be expected to pay damages in addition to what you have already paid. If you decide to contest the damages in court you could end up paying settlement costs, judgment costs, and attorney fees.