Accidents Happen: Take Steps to Help Protect Yourself From Damage, Liability Caused by Pets

By Benjamin Olivo

The scenario is too familiar: The jogger insists that dogs adore him, but you insist that Coco is having a bad day and isn’t in the mood to interact with strangers. But the jogger goes ahead and pets Coco anyway, and out come the teeth.

If your pet injures another person or causes property damage, liability protection, which is included in USAA homeowners and renters insurance policies, will usually kick in if you are held responsible.

But the folks in the USAA Loss Prevention & Safety Department urge pet owners to concentrate on preventing injury and damage, rather than rely on liability insurance. 

Prevention, after all, is the best protection.

“That’s why we try to get out in front of it to educate our members to take extra precautions,” says Lisa Clark, senior programs underwriter.

Here are some tips:

  • Supervise and control your pet properly to help prevent any accidental injuries or damage to others.
  • Consider obedience or training classes to improve your pet’s behavior.
  • Ensure fencing and gates on your property are secure to prevent escape.
  • Know your pet’s personality and avoid situations that can cause it to become frightened, aggressive or excited.
  • Keep up with your pet’s vaccinations.

Sometimes, you follow all the rules and correct procedures, and accidents still happen. That’s when liability protection kicks in. Homeowners and renters policies commonly provide liability insurance that could pay on your behalf if your pet injures another person or animal or damages property. 

It’s more to protect yourself if your pet harms somebody else or harms their property,” says Melanie Hart, senior programs underwriter. “Let’s say you have a dog and someone comes to your door. Your excited dog jumps on that person and knocks him down, which breaks his arm — USAA’s homeowners and renters liability protection would generally provide coverage for medical expenses. And then you don’t have to pay out of pocket for that.” 

In 2015, according to the Insurance Information Institute, 15,352 dog bite claims were filed resulting in an average payment of $37,214. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S. with 20% of these becoming infected. 

If you have a property policy with liability coverage, ask your agent about any pet restrictions or limitations with the policy. If your assets have increased, be sure to increase you liability coverage accordingly. A common rule of thumb is to carry as much or more liability insurance as the value of the assets you own.

Learn more about what you get with a USAA renters policy.


Property and casualty insurance provided by United Services Automobile Association, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, USAA General Indemnity Company, Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company, San Antonio, TX,  and USAA, Ltd (Europe) and is available only to persons eligible for P&C group membership. Each company has sole financial responsibility for its own products. 

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