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Protection from animal bites and lawsuits

Best practices in protecting against animal bites — and litigation.

Your family pet may be your best friend, but not necessarily your neighbor’s or even your baby’s — and at times, not even yours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite about 4.5 million people each year. About 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries, and approximately half are children. Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims. While “Rover” is not considered “wildlife” per se, he can exhibit untamed behavior that can prove dangerous — and financially and personally costly, to both you and the victim.

Dog-related damage leading cause of homeowner’s insurance claims.

Something as harmless as a playful nip or digging on your neighbor’s property can result in a messy, time-consuming, and potentially devastating lawsuit. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2014, costing in excess of $530 million. The 2014 average cost per claim was up 15 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 in 2014. How, then, can pet owners protect against these damages?

Precautions that protect family and friends.

Even the sweetest of pets can turn vicious under the right conditions. Apart from obvious growling and snarling, how do you know when you’re in danger? The following are a few simple guidelines that can help circumvent any surprise attacks.

Never touch, handle, hug or climb on a dog when it’s sleeping. If woken unexpectedly, its immediate response is defending itself by biting. Simply call your dog’s name from a distance when waking it. Avoid bothering the dog when it’s eating and never take away its food. Sometimes the first “offense” may not provoke a reaction, but it will cause stress and make it more likely to bite in the future.

If your dog is sick or has suffered an injury, handle it with care. Reacting aggressively when injured or in pain is an old survival instinct. When it comes to children, constantly chasing or teasing a dog when it’s not in a playful mood, pulling at its ears, placing one’s face in its face, and hugging it tightly are unacceptable behaviors for many dogs. Teach your children these “no-nos.”

When other children are visiting, never leave your dog unsupervised with them. The same is true for any newborn infants in your family. When going on a trip, keep your dog indoors or inside a physical fence. Leaving your dog in an electronic fence makes it an attractive nuisance for neighboring children, who may come into the yard to pet it. Regardless of your dog’s breed or temperament, never allow unsupervised interaction between children outside your family and your dog.

Fact is, any breed can attack another animal or person. While these are precautions you can take, there are situations that you simply can’t control. For instance, your dog might think that someone is dangerous to you, and attack to keep you safe. No mater how calm or friendly your dog is, the potential for a dog bite is always there. What, then, can you do to protect against litigation?

Steps to take to help protect your wallet.

Many traditional insurance policies restrict certain breeds from coverage or exclude animal liability coverage altogether. Because insurance policies are becoming more exclusionary, it is likely that a homeowner’s insurance policy will not cover damage if a pet causes an incident. However, pet liability insurance can help protect against costly litigation — and help pet owners sleep at night.

In some states, and in some residences, dog owners are required to purchase dog liability insurance for aggressive breeds such as pit bulls or Rottweilers. While this is a smart policy, it is far too limiting, as any breed can turn aggressive at a moment’s notice. Whatever the breed, whatever the location, pet liability insurance can cover the expenses associated with defending your case in court, and also pay for the amount that would be awarded by the court to the victim including the court fees. Aside from paying for the treatment of the victim, it can also pay for compensation to the family in the event that the victim dies because of the injuries sustained from your pet.

XINSURANCE — your best choice.

Whether your dog has a bite history or is a breed commonly excluded from homeowners coverage, XINSURANCE.COM can provide the coverage you need. XINSURANCE has spent years creating the best plans to insure pets, offering options that cover homeowners in their respective states. For just pennies a day, pet owners can easily help insure against the “wild side” of their loving pets.

For more information about XINSURANCE, contact Logan Fitzgerald at  877-585-2853.

*Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®.