Don't Let a Dog Take a Bite Out of Your Finances
Dog bites are costly. A single lawsuit can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lost wages, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Even though homeowners and renters insurance policies usually provide dog-bite liability coverage, it may not be enough to pay for all the legal and medical bills if your pet injures someone.
According to III, insurance companies paid about $479 million in dog-bite claims in 2011, and the average claim cost $29,396. Although liability laws vary from state to state, pet owners who are considered legally responsible for an injury typically have to reimburse the injured person for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage.
The standard homeowners policy usually provides $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. If a dog-bite settlement exceeds that limit, the dog owner must cover the difference. The greater a person's assets, the higher the risk of a costly lawsuit, according to III. That's why some people should consider getting an umbrella liability policy. For about $200 to $400 a year, you can get $1 million of liability coverage (see Why You Should Have Umbrella Liability Insurance for more information).
Also, if your pet does injure someone, your insurance company may charge a higher premium or exclude the animal from coverage, according to III. Some companies require owners to take their dog to behavior-modification classes in order to get coverage for the pet. And some insurers ask homeowners with pets to sign liability waivers for dog bites.