What is animal liability coverage and why you should add it to your Homeowner’s Policy

 

Back in November I wrote a blog post called “Insurance coverage for dog bites?” It discussed dog bite claims and the difficulty in getting the homeowner’s insurer for a dog owner to pay the claim. This difficulty arises from the fact that a number of years ago most homeowner’s insurers added exclusions to their policies that bar coverage for “animal liability,” including dog bites.

The focus of this blog post is to provide advice and guidance to dog owners on how to protect themselves from injury claims brought as a result of bad behavior by their dog. This includes not only dog bites, but any type of injury caused by a dog. For example, a number of years ago I represented a man who was injured when he fell off his bike while being chased by a dog. The dog had escaped from its backyard. It never bit or touched my client, but it jumped at him, causing him to lose control of his bike. Even though the dog never bit or touched my client, the dog owner was still legally responsible for the harm caused by the dog. The dog owner’s homeowner’s insurer denied coverage for the claim due to“animal liability” exclusion in its policy. I claimed the exclusion was unclear and we were ultimately able to settle the case with the homeowner’s insurer on a compromised basis.

What can you do to protect yourself from injuries caused by your dog? The first thing I would recommend is that you review your homeowner’s insurance policy. Most policies (but not all) exclude coverage for any injury caused by an animal. If your insurance policy has such exclusion, speak to your agent or the insurance company. For just a few dollars more each year, you should be able to add coverage for injuries caused by animals back into your policy. I own two dogs and when my insurer notified me a number of years ago that they were eliminating animal liability coverage upon renewal of my policy, I was able to add it back in for less than $100 a year.

The other thing I would recommend that you do to protect yourself is to place a “bad dog” sign on your property. Florida Statute 767.04 states that a dog owner is not liable to anyone who comes on their property and is bitten by a dog “if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.”

For more information, please call Eric H. Luckman at 561-737-3133.