Insurance is confusing to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. When you apply for insurance, a homeowner's insurance policy for example, the insurance agent will ask you anywhere from what your roof is made of to whether you have a fire extinguisher to what type of breed your dog Spike is. After compiling that information, he gives you what your insurance will cost and sends you a packet full of numbers, information, and language that appears to come from another planet. It is at this moment that you ask yourself: What exactly is it that I'm buying? Why did he have to ask me all of those questions? What are all of these numbers? Is this policy language in English? It is in this stream of blogs, “Understanding Insurance Policies,” that I will attempt to answer these questions.
A Note About Dogs
I see a lot of cases come into our office involving dog bites, where Spike gets out of his backyard or where Joe Bloe walks Spike without a leash and Spike gets frisky with a jogger. There are often situations where Joe Bloe throws a party and Spike gets a little too playful with the children in the backyard. Arizona has very strict laws requiring dog owners to be responsible for their dogs. If your dog is not on a leash or your dog is aggressive and hurts someone, you could be charged criminally and held civilly responsible for the victim's injuries. To make matters worse, your furry friend could be put down for something that should have been avoided.
Many homeowners' insurance policies will cover you if your dog injures someone, but be careful. Some policies exclude certain breeds of dogs it considers potentially dangerous. Breeds that often pop up in this category include:
- Alaskan malamutes.
- Presa Canarios.
- Chow chows.
- Doberman pinschers.
- German shepherds.
- Pit bull terriers.
- Siberian huskies
Insurance companies might also consider whether Spike has had any obedience training, prior history of being violent or vaccinations before deciding whether or not he is covered and/or the amount for his coverage must be increased.
It is a good idea to check your policy and make sure the breeds of the dogs you own are covered under your policy. If they aren't, it might not be a bad idea to purchase a policy that will include your energetic Doberman. If you are having trouble finding a homeowner policy that will cover your dog, you can also look into purchasing Dog Owner Liability Insurance.
But Matt, am I responsible if my tenant's dog bites someone? If I am a renter, will my landlord's insurance policy cover my dog?