You probably don’t think your dog would ever bite someone, let alone cause a serious injury. But dog bites are more common than you might realize—4.5 million occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most victims are young children.
Those injuries also have a bigger impact on homeowners insurance than you might realize: The Insurance Information Institute says dog-related claims accounted for more than $600 million in insurance payments in 2016.
(Keep in mind that it’s not just bites that cause injuries. Dogs can knock down pedestrians or cyclists, too, which often leads to severe medical issues as well.)
With those numbers in mind, it’s understandable that insurance companies want to know if you’ve got a dog in your household. Some even will refuse to insure you if you have a specific breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior, regardless of whether your dog has ever bitten someone.
Despite that, you should never hide the fact that you have a dog from your insurance company. If you do, and your dog then causes an injury, your coverage could be invalidated—leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more.
When a bite happens
OK, so your insurance company knows about your dog. But do you have to tell them if the dog bites or injures somebody?
That depends. If it’s a minor incident, you might consider paying out of pocket for any medical expenses in an attempt to avoid the claims process and a potential increase in your premiums. (In some instances, insurance companies will not renew your policy or will exclude your dog from coverage after paying for a dog-related claim.)
However, this might violate your policy, which probably requires you to report changes in your circumstances. If you don’t report a bite, and the dog then bites someone else later, the insurance company might deny you liability coverage for the second incident. Ask us to outline your options.
Another risk is the threat of future claims from the victim. Injuries aren’t always immediately apparent, and complications can arise later. The victim might decide down the road to sue you. And if you’ve waited too long to report the incident to your insurance company, it might be too late to make a claim and receive all the protection your policy was meant to provide—which can include help with attorney fees, medical bills and more.
A $33,000 mistake?
Ask yourself this: How would your budget look if you had an unexpected $33,000 expense? The average claim payment for a dog injury in 2016 was about that amount. And that’s with an insurance company working on behalf of the insured. If you’re on your own, you could wind up paying even more—a lot more.
Our advice? Start with your agent and discuss your specific situation. Even if you decide not to file a claim—which is always an option—you’ll get guidance from a professional on our team who can help you assess the risk.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Disability insurance is not always top of mind for people — many of us likely think that it's only needed in the event of a serious accident or diagnosis. In truth, Disability Insurance is important for everyone.
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled during their working years. In addition, Guardian’s Workplace Benefits Study also reveals that 55 percent of employees found the financial impact of their disability incident to be major or devastating. Despite these statistics, only 54 percent of working Americans have disability—down from 65 percent in 2017.
The Theodore & Associates team wants to showcase the value of disability insurance for both employees and employers thinking about offering this key benefit.
1) Disability insurance can increase employees' financial security
Research shows that 66 percent of employees whose disability happened more than six years ago feel that they still have not completely recovered financially. However, more than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which means they are unprepared to go without a single paycheck should they be out on disability. Disability insurance can help alleviate some of the financial strain caused by unexpected disabilities.
2) Disability insurance can be customized to your specific company's size, needs, and financial portfolio.
Employer-sponsored programs have features such as online enrollment, seamless payroll deduction and no medical exam requirement to enroll. This makes disability insurance efficient and attractive to employees.
But if your company cannot provide an employer-sponsored benefit, you may be able to provide access via an employee-funded disability insurance product. This helps shift the cost to the employees, yet helps demonstrate an employer’s commitment to enhancing their employees’ financial security. It’s a win-win.
3) Disability insurance can help integrate absence management
One critical component of an effective disability management program can be the integration of absence management capabilities. As more states pass paid leave laws, more companies need help navigating the complexities of absence management. Managing absences is a demanding job for even the most sophisticated HR teams. More worrisome is that if employers mismanage absences, they leave themselves open to costly lawsuits, fines, misuse of leaves and other issues. A well put together disability insurance plan can help deliver a holistic, integrated plan that includes both disability and absence management for their clients.
4) Disability insurance can boost employee satisfaction and retention
Research validates that utilizing disability insurance can sway employee perceptions of employers and enhance overall employee satisfaction (71 percent versus 54 percent). Employees with disability insurance—especially if they had it at the time of their incident—are more satisfied with their employee benefits and much more likely to feel that their company cares about them.
Additionally, a positive experience with a return to work (RtW) program can go even further to bolster an employee’s perception of its employer. For example, 70 percent said they feel their company cares for them after completing a RtW program. This is notable and something to consider when speaking with carriers about a RtW program, how it’s implemented, and its success rate. There’s a lot of value for both the employer and employee in helping employees return to work through an effective RtW program.
These are just some of the many benefits of one of the most misunderstood employee benefits available. For business owners and employees alike, there are misconceptions about not just the necessity but also the cost of disability insurance.
If you're considering offering a disability insurance benefit but have questions, or if you want to make sure your plan is still right for you, the Theodore & Associates team can help. Together, we'll explore a plan that works for your business and financial goals. Contact us today to start the conversation.