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What is Pet Insurance? (A Comprehensive Guide to Protecting Your Pet)

What is Pet Insurance? (A Comprehensive Guide to Protecting Your Pet)

May is National Pet Month and, to celebrate our fur-babies, we thought it was important to talk to you about the many types of pet insurance available to you as an animal lover.

So if you’ve ever found yourself wondering if you can insure your pet or asking yourself “what is pet insurance exactly?”, you’ve come to the right place.

 

What is Pet Insurance?

Just like “human” insurance, there’s no such thing as a single “pet insurance policy.” Just as you can insure your home, car, life, or any of your belongings, you can insure different things for your pets, depending on your (and their) needs.

In this article, we’ll cover the most commonly insured areas of your pet’s life so that you and Fido can feel safe, secure, and protected for years to come.

 

Homeowners Insurance and Dogs

cocker spaniel puppy looking over back of sofa

Lots of our clients are under the impression that their homeowners insurance covers everything in their home, including pets. After all, if pets are legally property, shouldn’t they be covered by homeowners insurance?

Unfortunately, homeowners coverage is not comprehensive enough to cover all types of damage caused by your pet. Most insurance companies have limitations on what they will cover and even what types of dog breeds will be considered “acceptable breeds” on your homeowners policy.

A typical homeowners insurance policy will cover expenses you are liable for in the event your dog injures someone or their property, but coverage is often subject to restrictions and even sub-limits. This means that Animal Liability Coverage on a homeowner policy is often, but not always, inadequate. Sub-limits can even cause coverage problems with complimentary policies like Personal Liability Umbrellas. Some homeowner policies completely exclude Animal Liability. 

Your homeowner’s insurance likely will not cover:

  • any vet bills,
  • injury to your pet on your property,
  • your pet damaging your own property,
  • certain dog breeds,
  • dogs with a history of violent or aggressive behavior.

If your homeowners insurance refuses to cover any dog-related claims (or refuses to cover you at all), this doesn’t mean you’re on your own. You may have the option to purchase separate dog liability insurance.

 

“But My Dog is a Good Boy!”

puppy dog eyes

This puppy has never done anything wrong, right?

The reason why certain dog breeds show up on your insurance company’s “banned” list usually comes down to numbers: how many claims involving dog bites has that company handled? If Dobermans have made up a significant number of dog bites, then your insurance company will likely have a policy against providing coverage for a Doberman. These so-called “dangerous dogs” typically include pit bulls, Rottweilers, Staffordshire terriers, and Great Danes, just to name a few.

If your pet has a history of violent or aggressive behavior, the insurance company sees your dog as a risk based on his/her past, even if you can swear up and down that “they don’t have the whole story” and you took Max to obedience classes.

Because the truth is, no one can truthfully say that their dog will never bite anyone. No matter how much of a pacifist you are, we’re willing to bet there are certain occasions where you would use physical violence to escape harm.

Your dog is no different. Even the most mild-mannered dog can lash out if they feel threatened.

So if your homeowners insurance refuses to cover you or any dog related claims, there’s still one way you can round out your pet coverage: dog liability insurance.

 

Dog Liability Insurance

closeup of dog biting toy

Dog or other animal liability coverage is an addition on to your homeowners insurance that can provide coverage in those instances where you don’t have enough (or any) coverage under your homeowners policy.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost of a dog bite claim last year was $37,000. What’s worse? Many Florida insurers limit animal liability to $25,000. The remaining $12,000 in this example would be purely out of pocket. If your homeowner’s policy limit is not this high (or if you’re not covered at all) you’ll need dog liability coverage to close the gap.

Luckily, most policies are not expensive, costing only about $250-500 a year. That’s well worth the added peace of mind.

 

Pet Health Insurance

dog wearing cone of shame

When most people think of “pet insurance,” they’re thinking of pet health insurance.

Pet health insurance can help cover the cost of expensive vet bills, much like your health insurance plan helps with the cost of your doctor visits. Also, much like your health insurance plan, pet insurance policies have deductibles, co-pays, caps, and probably won’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Premiums are based on breed, age, and coverage level. You can purchase a plan that covers just accidents, one that covers both accidents and illnesses, one that covers just well care visits, and everything in between.

It’s worth noting that pet health insurance is not the same as a vet discount plan, where you pay a monthly fee to your vet in exchange for discounts on services. Vet discount plans are typically much more expensive than insurance plans and aren’t regulated in the same way.

In the end, the best pet insurance plan is one you feel comfortable with. Different plans have different levels of coverage, and that coverage is what’s most important when it comes to your pet’s health. Get advice from your vet before deciding whether it’s worth it in the long run.

 

Theft & Life Insurance

woman leading show horse

Sometimes your pet is more than a furry companion. Sometimes they’re your livelihood.

If your dog, cat, or horse is a show animal or has a job (in modeling, acting, or with the police force), it’s worth getting theft or life insurance coverage on them.

With this type of coverage, you would get reimbursed in the event your pet is stolen or dies under certain conditions.

 

Auto Insurance and Your Pet

dog sticking head out car window

Our furry friends are often on the go with us: to the dog park, the vet, or a weekend away. But what happens if they are injured in a car accident?

Some auto insurance policies cover injury to your pet in the event of an accident caused by another driver. After all, your pet is legally your property, and your auto liability coverage is specifically for damage someone else does to your property.

If you want your pet to be covered in the event that you cause an accident, check with your insurance company to see if they have any plans that cover your pet under your collision coverage (most don’t offer this as a standard). If they tell you that your pets aren’t covered, talk with your independent insurance agent to see how you can get a policy that will.

 

Conclusion

We know how much your pets can feel like family, so protecting them against any harm that may come their way is important to you.

Whether you’re looking for health insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, liability insurance, or any other kind of coverage for your four-legged friends, let us know how we can help.

Do I Need to Insure My Jewelry?

Do I Need to Insure My Jewelry?

Wedding insurance is a great way to make sure the Big Day goes off without a hitch. But what about protecting your investments after your wedding? Have you thought about engagement ring insurance for that gorgeous rock?

Or perhaps you’re not married, but you have other valuable items of jewelry to protect. Maybe an antique brooch from your grandmother or a pocket watch from your great-great-grandfather. Jewelry is expensive and—in the case of heirlooms—often irreplaceable. But having jewelry coverage on your gems, gold, and other precious metals can help if your engagement ring is lost.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the more common questions that you may have about getting jewelry insured. 
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Do you need insurance for a vacant home?

Do You Need Insurance For a Vacant Home?

Insurance companies really (really really) hate unpredictable risk.

After all, “unpredictable risk” means “claims.” And “claims” involve giving you money.

(No one likes to give away money. Not you. Not your insurance company.)

Predictability means the insurance company can charge you reasonable prices and pay their claims. But getting insurance for a vacant home often means more unpredictable risk.

Sure, there’s a natural level of risk that comes from living in a home—a neglected pot of pasta on the stove causes a fire or your toddler’s toilet antics bring on a plumbing nightmare. The insurance company knows this. So they tweak their numbers and policies to minimize their risk as much as possible.

So if living in a home causes more claims, you would think they would prefer that your home be empty, right?

Wrong.

As it turns out, it’s even more important to get insurance for a vacant home.
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home insurance premiums going up

Why Your Home Insurance Premiums Are Going Up

You haven’t even made it all the way inside from your mailbox, and you’re already frustrated!

It seems like every year when that homeowner insurance renewal comes, it’s asking for more money. You haven’t had a claim since you bought the home 15 years ago; it just doesn’t seem fair.

Well, when it comes to one of the biggest causes for home insurance premium increases, you’re right. It’s not fair.

When Homeowners Become Victims

The State of Florida is currently faced with a major insurance crisis.

It comes in the form of widespread fraud…specifically fraud perpetrated by crooked contractors and public adjusters responding to claims caused by alleged water damage and hail storms. Homeowners become victims when they fall for a too-good-to-be-true offer from the scammer.

Let’s take a look at some examples of how this fraud is committed.
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insuring a home based business

Insuring a Home Based Business

“Do I need liability insurance for an e-commerce store? What should I consider when insuring a home based business?”

There are approximately 14,000,000 home-based businesses in the U.S. Many people choose this type of business because they love the flexible hours, the lack of commute, the comfort of working in their pajamas, and the added benefit of saving money.

“Since I don’t have a warehouse or storefront,” they determine, “I can spend less on rent, taxes, and insurance. Right?”

Unfortunately for these uninformed business owners, that is simply not true.

Home-based businesses—whether the customers come to you, you go to them, or the business is completely done online—are not exempt from needing insurance.

And if you think you’re off the hook because you have insurance on your home, think again.
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Do I Need Flood Insurance? (In short: yes!)

Does My Homeowner’s Policy Cover a Flood?

Whether it’s mortgages or storm damage, it’s never a good thing when your home is underwater. But how can you make sure that your property will be protected when the next Big Storm strikes?

If Harvey and Katrina have taught Americans anything, it’s that flood insurance can make or break your cleanup efforts after a catastrophic incident. You may have even seen the ads on TV warning you against relying solely on your homeowners policy for flood coverage.

“Yeah,” you might be asking. “It’s nice to have. But do I need flood insurance?”

 

Yes. You Do Need Flood Insurance.

aerial shot of flooded suburban neighborhood

Your standard homeowner’s policy will cover some damage from rain, but not a true “flood” in the way that FEMA defines it (more on that later). In order to protect yourself against floods caused by heavy rainstorms and other natural disasters, you’ll need to purchase flood insurance backed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

But before you decide to take your chances and save a few bucks on your insurance premiums, you’ll need to do a little research. If you live in a designated flood zone (or if you’re about to move into a house located in a flood plain), you will need to have flood policy before your lender will approve the loan.

And just because you didn’t need flood coverage when you first moved in doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Flood maps change and evolve all the time since construction, erosion, and other factors all affect water runoff and flood risk.

To find out whether you live in a designated flood zone, click here.

However, even if your property is high and dry, it’s still worth considering carrying excess flood insurance. According to FEMA, more than 20% of flood claims originate from properties outside a flood zone. You just never know when a heavy rain storm will cause a nearby body of water to overflow its bounds and creep into your property.

Even if you don’t have a river, lake, or retention pond nearby, remember that Florida is riddled with underground aquifers. If too much rain fills them up, you’re looking at groundwater seepage that leads to the type of flooding your traditional homeowners insurance policy won’t cover.

What Is a “Flood”?

street sign nearly submerged with floodwaters

FEMA has very strict guidelines for what is considered a “flood” or not, and this is the definition that your flood insurance carrier will abide by when deciding whether or not to cover your claim.

FEMA defines a flood as:

  • Flooding of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your home);
  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation of runoff of surface waters from any source; or
  • Mudflow; or
  • Collapse of land along a shoreline as a result of erosion “exceeding anticipated cyclical levels.”

Water damage inside your home as a result of a busted water pipe or sewer backup is not considered a “flood” and would likely be covered under standard homeowners policies.

 

How Flood Insurance Works

pile of sand bags

The NFIP was created in 1968 after the National Flood Insurance Act was passed. This government subsidized program helps to control flood insurance costs to make flood insurance affordable to everyone.

In fact, as you call around for flood insurance quotes, you’ll likely find that premiums are pretty much the same across the board. The average price is only around $600 a year.

The NFIP has two policies available, one that covers your home’s physical structure up to $250,000 and one that covers your possessions up to $100,000. You can purchase both of these policies or only one. You can even purchase excess flood insurance if you need coverage beyond $350,000.

 

Conclusion

Flood insurance is not covered under your standard homeowners policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s “optional.”

Floods can happen anywhere, at any time, even if you’re not located in a high-risk flood zone, and the only way to recoup any flood loss is with a flood insurance policy. These policies are an affordable, government subsidized way to protect against catastrophic flooding that could leave you underwater in more ways than one.

Flood insurance is affordable, but flood damage is not.

To get a flood insurance quote, call a local independent insurance agent.

Drone Insurance Covered by Your Homeowners Policy? Think Again!

Every time something useful, cool, and new is invented, there are new dangers that come along with it. Newton’s Third Law of Physics even states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well, guess what? Drones may be the hottest new present for children and tech enthusiasts, and a cutting-edge business tool, but an estimated 80% of them are operating without proper FAA approval or appropriate insurance protection.

drone insurance policy

Photo Credit: khunaspix on freedigitalphotos.net

Drones at home are less of a problem than drones used for business. Remember, once Bob the neighbor pays little Johnny $10 to take an aerial picture of his house, there has been a business transaction. You may not agree, but there was a transaction in the eyes of the court! Insurers are struggling to deal with the new risk posed by drones, whether it is drones running into each other, drones being flown into people or property, or drones having mechanical failure and crashing into people or property. There’s also that whole spying on people thing, despite plenty of existing laws and legal precedents to deal with that (just think cell phone cameras). You may think of drones as harmless, but rest assured, there are some very important things for homeowners and business owners to know about this potential insurance issue.
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Fraud is Causing Your Rate to Go Up

It seems like every year homeowner insurance costs more. We have talked about this before, but it is still happening and your rates are still going up. Our goal is to make sure everyone is educated about what is happening so you can make informed decisions about your home.

Normally, when people spend money they like to receive something of value in exchange for it. It’s difficult for insurance to provide obvious or immediate value because no one ever wants to have to use it. Everyone’s financial sensibility is vulnerable to ads like the one below that seem to bring that value. A new roof on your home can cost anywhere from $5,000.00 to $50,000.00 depending upon size, materials and contractor. The free roofs that are being promised all across Florida in ads like these, however, are not free at all. In fact, they are incredibly costly to the homeowner and the general public.
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A New Free Roof?…It Must be Too Good to be True

Free-lunch_Guy-Downes-20101

Credit – http://www.guydownes.com

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

A stranger knocks on your door.  You apprehensively answer.  They tell you that they can get you a entirely kitchen worth $25,000 or more if you’ll let them inside.  You laugh, say it’s too good to be true and send them on their way.  So why do people allow those making such outrageous claims to climb on their roofs, have access to their insurance policy  information, and ultimately to involve them in a rapidly growing fraud scam?  I suppose it’s because they aren’t be asked to actually invite the perpetrators in, but they are being promised a new roof typically valued anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000.

Insurance is there to protect homeowners from sudden and accidental damage.  Unlike a home warranty or maintenance contract, insurance does not cover wear and tear or an item reaching the end of its useful life.  Insurance is designed and priced to repair or replace a roof if a tree falls on your house, a hail storm causes damage or another sudden, accidental and unforeseeable event damages your home.  Unfortunately, opportunistic and criminally liable contractors are looking for homes with shingle roof at or around 15 years old all over Florida.  These roofs are naturally reaching the end of their lives, and most homeowners dread having to purchase one from within their household budget.  Knock, knock…
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What to do if your house has polybutylene pipes?

Polybutylene pipe

“What do you mean I can’t get homeowner insurance?”

Unfortunately, this line is becoming more common by the day in Florida. Homes are being bought and sold at a quick pace again, and any house built between 1978 and 1995 probably started out with Polybutylene plumbing pipes. If your house has not been re-piped it has been blacklisted by nearly all insurance companies. This isn’t because insurers want to be mean. It is because there is evidence that Polybutylene fails more often than other types of plumbing.
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