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With personal injury claims on the rise and thousands of dog bites occurring every year in the UK, dog owners should have third party liability insurance. Even friendly dogs can cause an accident resulting in a personal injury claim, for instance by knocking someone over. We'll explain typical pet insurance liability coverage, plus provide data on third party dog liability claim costs.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Third party liability coverage can protect dog owners financially against an incident involving their dog, such as a dog bite. Typically, 3rd party liability will cover legal costs and expenses for defending a claim against the dog owner, plus any compensation and claimant’s costs and expenses—up to a limit which often tops £1 million.
Most lifetime and max benefit pet insurance plans include liability coverage, but you should always check the Policy Wording before buying.
Those who don't want to pay for pet health insurance for their dog, or whose pet insurance doesn't include liability cover, can buy a Liability Only policy from insurers such as Bought By Many. Liability only plans cost much less than pet insurance plans that also cover vet bills. Pet owners can expect to pay as little as £11.20 per year for liability cover, with prices depending on the size of your dog.
Third Party Dog Liability: Exclusions
While a pet insurance plan may include coverage for third party liability in general, each plan will specify certain breeds, circumstances or events that will be excluded from cover. These exclusions will be explained in a plan's Policy Wording. While exclusions differ from plan to plan, common exclusions related to third party liability for dogs include:
- Select breeds, which may include Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brazillero, Wolf or Wolf hybrid, or any dog that should be registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
- Dogs who have had complaints made about its behaviour
- Dogs trained to attack or used as a guard dog
- Incidents involving you or your family
- Incidents at work
- Incidents that occur while your dog is in the care of a business or a professional and you are paying for their services (e.g., dog walker, groomer, etc.)
Additionally, most plans include quite strict language dictating what you can and cannot do in the event your dog does cause injury to someone or any property damage. If you don't follow these rules then the insurance might not pay out, so it's worth taking note of them. While terms will vary by insurer, below are some typical dos and don'ts:
- You must not admit responsibility and/or negotiate following an incident
- You must inform the insurance company immediately of an incident
- You must inform the insurance company immediately if you receive any legal documents
Do I Need Third Party Pet Insurance?
Dog owners should have third party pet insurance to protect against compensation claims in case their dog accidentally causes damage to property or injury to another person. A dog compensation claim can be financially devastating to pet owners who don't have third party liability insurance. According to Legal Expert, dog bite compensation can range anywhere from £1,000 to £500,000 or more to compensate for psychiatric damage, physical scarring, loss of earnings or benefits, etc.
Dog bites are, unfortunately, more common than you might think. There are 7,693 admissions to NHS hospitals a year for dog-related injuries and a 5% increase in dog-related admissions between 2015 and 2018.
According to the Royal Mail, 2,484 dog attacks took place on postmen and women alone across the UK in 2018-19, a 9% increase from the previous year. The majority of postal attacks (82%) happened at the front door or the garden by a dog instinctively protecting when it felt it or its territory was being threatened. In fact, dog bites on postmen account for a third of all personal injury claims.
You might be surprised by the breeds which attack most often—it's not pitbulls. According to Animal Friends, German Shepherds, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Border Collies and Labradors are the most responsible for attacks on delivery workers. So even a family-friendly pet can cause injury, acting to protect their beloved families if they sense a threat.
Dogs Causing Traffic Accidents
In addition to dog bites, third party liability insurance can protect you financially against events such as your dog running across the road causing an accident, potentially resulting in thousands of pounds being paid out in compensation. Even the most obedient dog can have selective hearing if they see a squirrel gathering nuts on the other side of the road.
Dogs Causing Personal Accidents
A dog can also cause injury to a person without even making contact, or when being friendly. For instance, Petplan paid £60,000 to a postman who fell over a low wall, injuring his back, whilst running from an over-protective Border Collie. Petplan also paid £40,000 to compensate an elderly woman who broke her wrist and hip when she was knocked over by a dog jumping up in excitement upon seeing someone he knew.
These were certainly unfortunate events for all involved—luckily pet insurance took care of the financial costs and compensation for the benefit of both the injured and the pet owners. Without liability insurance these dog owners would have responsible for paying compensation, as well as legal costs.