An Insurance Policy Is a Contract
Insurance Q&A: “Do I have to tell my insurance company I have a dog?”
Drum roll…Yes. But you already knew that. Keep reading if you want to know why.
The contract states, basically, that in exchange for consideration (i.e. your money) the insurance company makes a contractual “promise” to indemnify you (i.e. make your whole again) against claims for damages as a result of your negligence.
That said; it is generally not acceptable for any party to a contract to misrepresent themselves. If you are asked, as part of the completion of your application for homeowner’s insurance, whether or not you have a dog, or more likely, what type of dog you have, you must tell the truth.
What’s the Difference…My Dog Wouldn’t Hurt a Flea?
News flash…your dog is a dog. Dogs bite people. There are thousands of homeowner’s insurance claims each year in the U.S. dealing with animal (mostly dog) bites. Many of them are “first time biter’s,” which means their owner, up until the second the bite took place, believed their dog “wouldn’t hurt a flea.”
Taking that info into account, you are liable for any bodily injury or property damage your dog causes…whether or not the neighbor’s kid was “torturing” the dog just prior to the bite. If your dog bites someone, you may end up in court defending your dog and your pocketbook.
What If I Don’t Tell Them?
Your homeowner’s insurance policy would indemnify you against the damages awarded to a party who sues you and wins, up to applicable policy limits. That is; unless you didn’t disclose the fact you had a dog or misrepresented the breed of your dog to obtain coverage. Read more about homeowners insurance covering your dog.
Any misrepresentation discovered on your policy application could void your coverage. In the case of an animal liability claim, the insurance company is going to review your policy and application in order to determine if your “loss” is covered.
If you stated you didn’t have a dog on the application when, in reality, you did, the insurance company may refuse to pay the claim and cancel your policy. This would put you in a bad position for your lawsuit. You would have to find your own attorney and pay for any damages (hospital bills, bite scars) you are found liable for.
You may end up paying a little extra for your homeowner’s insurance as a result of the breed of dog YOU CHOSE TO BUY.
But potentially having to pay $300,000 out of your own pocket rather than a few extra bucks for coverage for your dog doesn’t make sense and certainly isn’t worth the risk.
Your current insurer may charge you a higher insurance premium or non-renew your policy because of your dog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a company to do it cheaper.
Read more: Top 10 states for dog bite insurance claims.