Owner Of A Large Dog? How Can You Protect Yourself From Liability?

Posted on: 17 June 2015

Large dogs are a joy -- with personalities even bigger than their bodies, they can add fun and laughter to a household. However, owning certain large dog breeds may cause your homeowners insurance costs to rise. This can be due to liability concerns about potential insurance claims resulting from dog bites and other dog-related injuries. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your dog from any liability that could be incurred, while also protecting the safety of your guests. Read on for several ways to insulate yourself from dog-related injuries.

Invest in leash and obedience training

Even if your dog is a gentle giant who would never harm a fly, the potential for liability exists if you have guests on your property or if you take your dog walking on public streets or in parks. Although a full third of all homeowners insurance claims are due to dog bite injuries, but there are also claims filed from those who are knocked down by a large dog while walking or biking, or on behalf of children who may trip and fall while running away from a larger dog.

By ensuring that your dog is well-trained to respond to verbal commands, you can help control his or her actions while in public, and avoid inadvertent confrontations with smaller or more vulnerable individuals who might be especially prone to injury. This training can also help save you money, as certain homeowners insurance policies will offer a discount on any pet-related surcharge if you can provide documentation of successful completion of a training course. By showing that you and your dog have a lower risk of claims, you can benefit from reduced insurance rates.

Check up on your homeowners insurance

While you're working on reducing your homeowners insurance rates by undergoing dog training, you may want to check into your coverage carefully to see exactly what is included -- and excluded. If you weren't a dog owner when you first took out the policy, you may have been under an obligation to report your adoption or purchase to your insurance carrier so that your coverage rates could be recalculated. If you didn't know about this requirement, it's possible that any injuries caused by your dog could be excluded from coverage.

Even if your conversation with your insurance company causes your rates to temporarily rise, you'll have the reassurance of knowing that you're protected from liability up to your policy limits. If you want even more coverage, you may want to investigate an umbrella insurance policy.

Look into umbrella insurance

Umbrella insurance can provide you with some additional protection against any potential claims stemming from your dog -- from bites to falls to even emotional trauma. An umbrella insurance policy's coverage kicks in after the coverage limits have been reached on your homeowners (or auto) policy. These policy limits generally begin at $1 or $2 million, which can help protect even high net worth individuals from having personal assets seized if a lawsuit is successful.

In addition to the normal slips and falls that are generally covered by a homeowners policy, umbrella insurance can protect you against claims of defamation, emotional distress, and other rarer personal injury claims. In some cases, the umbrella insurance will even pay any legal costs you might incur when defending yourself from a lawsuit. And because this insurance is used relatively rarely (as it kicks in only after your primary policy limit is reached), it can be purchased at a very low cost when compared to other types of liability insurance. Some $1 million policies are available for as little as $150 per year. For more information on ways to stay on the right side of the law, check out personal injury laws in your area.