Third party liability insurance is generally included in all but the most basic of dog insurance policies, and this insurance can provide an important additional layer of protection and peace of mind for both the owner of the insured dog themselves, and anyone who may have dealings with them.
Third party liability insurance is insurance that covers you if your dog causes damage to property or an injury to a person, dog or another pet, and claims for such things can soon work out very expensive.
But what if your dog has done something stupid and somebody intends to make a claim against you, or if you find yourself needing to recoup costs from the owner of an insured dog-what happens next, and how does it all work? Read on to learn more.
First of all, if an injury or property damage is caused by a dog, the person who is liable or responsible for this in law is the owner of the dog, or the dog’s registered keeper. This means that finding out who this person is and how to contact them is the first step in recovering your costs, and this is what you should prioritise in the first instance-simply getting their details, rather than trying to hash out the ins and outs of liability, and who was right or wrong.
When a dog owner has insurance that provides coverage for third party liability, the insurer will generally take over any claim made against the owner of the dog in their role as the insured’s appointed representative.
This does not mean that the insurers accept liability for the claim at this stage, or that the responsibility for the incident behind it transfers to them-it simply means that they will represent the insured party and act on their behalf, and once the insurers have instructed you that this is the case, it is likely that your contact with the owner of the dog itself will cease, and everything regarding the claim will go through the insurance company directly.
One source of much confusion for both dog owners and people trying to navigate liability claims and insurance is exactly how both parties should proceed when something happens. Essentially, this is fairly straightforward and is no different to how you would handle things if the dog owner was not insured at all-which of course, you may not know at the outset.
This means that the person who intends to recoup losses needs to contact the dog owner in the first instance, and formally inform them what they wish to claim for, and why. Keeping this document as brief and simple as possible is a good idea, in order to ensure that nothing prejudices the claim, or the insurer’s acceptance of it.
Then, the dog owner needs to inform their insurance company that somebody is making a claim against them, and this must be done as soon as possible-and if you suspect that someone might wish to claim against you, you should inform your insurers immediately, even if nothing actually comes of it.
From this point on, the insurance company will take over the claim’s handling, assuming that the incident is deemed to be something that they provide coverage for, which may require some investigation. Certain situations will not be covered by insurance-you can find out about some of the most common ones here.
In the first instance, the company that insures the dog will likely seek to find out if the dog may be covered by any other policy-such as a home insurance policy, in some cases. If this is the case, it can then take some time to decide which insurance company will handle the claim, and potentially, pay out on this-which is something that the dog owner needs to work through before the claim proceeds.
Once an insurance company has agreed to handle the claim on behalf of the dog owner, the next step is for the injured party to submit a formal Letter of Claim to the insurance company, which outlines both what you wish to receive in restitution for the incident, and the details of why the dog owner is responsible for these costs in the law.
This letter of claim might be a simple, one-page document or can run to multiple pages including witness statements, and additional information on the area the incident happened in, as well as a full outline of how it happened. This can be complicated, and getting a solicitor to help and check that you do not say anything that may harm your case is wise-if your claim is successful, you can claim your legal fees back from the insured.
If the insurers reject the claim as either something that they are not liable for, or due to lack of evidence, this does not have to mean the end of the road-your next form of recourse is to take the insured to civil court, and allow the courts to decide who is liable.
However, this is something that you should think about carefully, and again, possibly take legal advice on, in terms of your likelihood of winning the claim and your fees back.
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