"Third party liability insurance for dogs-avoiding the loopholes

"Third party liability insurance for dogs-avoiding the loopholes

Health & Safety

If you own a dog, having them insured to help to cover the cost of any unexpected or emergency veterinary bills is very wise, and something that all dog owners should consider. However, as well as coverage for your dog’s own veterinary treatment that may be required due to unforeseen circumstances, most dog insurance policies also include third party liability cover, which is as important as, if not even more important than veterinary cover, when it comes to protecting you and your pet.

That said, the third party liability insurance portion of most dog insurance policies comes with some caveats or situations in which the policy will not provide cover and support-and these caveats often come as a surprise to dog owners, as they are not necessarily particularly intuitive.

In this article, we will look at some of the common situations and caveats within third party liability insurance coverage for dogs in terms of what they do not generally provide coverage for, and what this means for dog owners. Read on to learn more.

What is third party liability insurance?

Put simply, third party liability insurance is insurance that provides cover for damages caused to another party, rather than damages or injury caused to the dog itself or its keeper.

This means that once you have third party liability insurance coverage for your dog, if your dog does something that causes another person a loss, your insurance will theoretically cover this, and pay out to the other party on your behalf.

The type of situations that may invoke the need for third party liability insurance for your dog are varied and numerous, but a few examples of potential scenarios that could prove costly for the dog owner and that the policy would generally cover include:

  • If your dog causes injury to another person, such as by biting them or knocking them over.
  • If your dog causes damage to property, such as by digging up someone’s garden, or causing a car accident.
  • If your dog bites or hurts another dog or pet, and that animal requires veterinary treatment.

Policy loopholes

It is not entirely accurate to refer to the caveats in standard third party liability policies for dogs as “loopholes” as such, because they are outlined in the small print of the policy itself for potential buyers to learn more about before purchasing. However, not everyone reads the fine print of their insurance policies, and even if you do, if you have had the policy for some years without any need to think about it in more detail, it is entirely possible to forget the specifics of it anyway!

Every insurance company that offers third party liability coverage for dogs will of course have their own specific terms, conditions and exceptions for coverage, but there are several areas that are common across most such policies for dogs where exceptions to the coverage are put in place-even from the largest and generally well regarded insurance companies like PetPlan.

Below, we will examine some of the caveats to coverage that most people are apt to be surprised by when it comes to their policies, and it is a good idea to check your own policy carefully to check to see if they are included or not!

If you admit liability

One thing that virtually all insurance companies have in common is that they will instruct you quite plainly in your paperwork and in any communications with them that you should not admit liability in the case of an accident or incident involving your dog, even if it abundantly clear to all parties concerned that you/your dog was at fault.

Admitting liability need not involve saying something plain such as “it was all my fault,” but can be something as simple as apologising for what has happened, which conveys your acceptance of responsibility in itself.

All third party liability policies will include the caveat that they will not cover you if you admit liability, although some firms will offer some wiggle room on this, depending on the situation-but you should not rely on that!

If the incident is deemed to be criminal in nature

Most incidents that can arise due to your dog causing damage or an injury will be classed as civil matters, which will be dealt with privately between the two parties, or if necessary, in the civil courts. However, if the incident is deemed to be criminal rather than civil, most insurance companies will walk away.

Criminal incidents do not necessarily need to involve deliberate breaking of the law or intending to cause harm-some forms of negligence that lead to injury or damage can be classed as criminal, and if the issue is deemed to fall under the remit of any element of the Dangerous Dogs Act, this may negate your claim too-for instance, if your dog is deemed to be legally dangerous, or one of the four banned dog breeds.

If an incident occurs in the course of your work

Dogs that work for a living, such as in security roles, as assistance dogs or on farms are not covered by standard third party liability pet policies, requiring a different form of cover to reflect their working roles. However, even if your dog doesn’t work with you, if you take them to work with you and something happens, this may be deemed to have occurred “in the course of your work,” and so not covered by the insurance.

This may even be the case if, say, you are using a company vehicle, and take your dog in the vehicle with you.

If the dog has shown indications of potential risky behaviour before

If your dog has shown signs of a certain type of problematic behaviour, such as chasing another pet, aggression, or something else that may be risky and then a repeat of this occurs and goes on to cause a liability issue, your insurers may refuse coverage then too.

If you have failed to take proper steps to prevent the incident

All dogs owners are assumed to have implicit responsibility for the control of their dog and their dog’s actions as far as is reasonable-which means that negligence that is not criminal is still covered by your policy. However, if you are deemed to have failed to take the proper steps to prevent an incident, coverage will be withheld-and there are numerous applications for this caveat.

Simply failing to adequately control or supervise your dog may be enough to negate your insurance, as may particular things such as failing to follow the advice or guidance from a professional such as a vet or dog trainer, or the dog’s previous owner.

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