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Bellingham Bulletin

Bad Dog, Sophie!

Feb 28, 2019 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
Did you know one-third of all homeowner liability claims in the USA are attributed to dog bites?  It’s true. There are nearly 90 million dogs in the United States, and it’s likely there will be 4 million dog bites this year. Roughly 37% of all households own at least one dog, and most dog bites involve dogs that are not spayed or neutered. Children are the most frequent victims, followed by senior citizens.
 
If your dog or any dog you keep at your property injures someone else, the injured party has the right to sue you for injuries. The injury does not necessarily have to occur at your residence to be covered.  Your homeowner liability insurance coverage travels with you even to the dog park. If the injured party is related to you and lives with you, your homeowner policy won’t afford coverage because they would be considered an insured under your policy.

The homeowner policy for your house, condo or apartment automatically includes liability coverage in section II. The limits of liability might be as low as $50,000, but most insurers allow you to raise the limit up to $500,000 for a few extra dollars. In 2017, the average cost paid for dog bite claims was over $37,000! One of our clients suffered a terrible dog bite claim when their “friendly” Labrador bit a neighborhood child in the face while their child and the neighborhood child were rough-housing in our client’s house. At least $300,000 was paid in damages. It was quite terrible.

Most homeowner insurance carriers have “Prohibited Dog Lists.”  For some insurers, the list might name only a half-dozen breeds, while other carriers might list 20 breeds. There is no extra charge on your policy if you keep a dog, but homeowner carriers won’t insure you at any price if you have one of their prohibited breeds in your house.
 
Recently our office dog, Sophie, snuggled up to a nice woman who visited our office to begin a new insurance policy.  The woman was comfortably seated in front of a desk, providing information to one of our staff members.  While answering questions, the woman continued petting dear Sophie. As the appointment was winding down, it was realized that Sophie was helping herself to more than just gentle petting from her new friend; she was also busy chewing through the leather shoulder strap on our newest client’s handbag!
 
Fortunately we were able to determine a (reasonable) value for the now-damaged handbag and offer restitution to our newest client. She couldn’t have been nicer, given the circumstances, but you can be sure Sophie is now directed to her bed in the corner of our insurance office whenever a new, delectable, leather handbag comes through the door!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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