Is Your Corgi Covered by Car Insurance?

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Many of you have seen the television ads by Progressive Insurance touting that they are providing collision coverage for your pet – up to $500 – if Fluffy or Fido is injured or dies in a car accident.  And while this is not an endorsement of any particular company, my initial reaction was “Wow, that’s great – and they do it for no extra premium!”

Then the legal side of my brain kicked in and I began wondering why pets were not already covered.  As pet lovers know, the law treats dogs and cats as personal property.  If my beloved briefcase or favorite shoes were in my car at the time of the accident, wouldn’t they be covered?  Yes, but probably under my homeowner’s insurance, subject to my deductible and assuming the item of personal property was not excluded (such as electronics) or covered only with a special rider (like jewelry).  Typically, auto insurance coverage – liability and collision – will cover the insured person’s damage to his or her vehicle in an accident, the damage to the other person’s auto or property if the insured was at fault, as well as medical bills, all up to the maximum stated in the policy and subject to the deductible.  At this point in time, only Progressive is covering pet injuries – dogs and cats only – under their auto policy, in hopes of distinguishing their company in a highly competitive market.

So why don’t other companies offer this coverage?  The jury is still out as to what this will cost Progressive and whether it attracts new customers to offset these costs.  At the time of this article, the local office had not had any pet claims yet submitted.  In our informal and totally unscientific telephone polling done as part of the preparation of this article, only Geico admits that they are looking into offering something similar (like what else is a company with a gecko spokes“person” going to say).  Allstate, Farmers and State Farm all said pets were not covered.  Interestingly, dogs, cats and pets are generally excluded from home-owner’s coverage as “property,” although most homeowner’s policies do cover instances where the pet has caused injury to a person or someone else’s property.  You should not just assume that this is the case, however.  I was surprised to discover that about one third of all homeowner claims involve dog bites so companies are beginning to refrain from selling insurance to households with dogs or to persons who have certain breeds of dogs, or they are starting to exclude damages from dog bites from their coverage altogether.  Since there is no “standard” form of policy – and they vary even between people with the same company – each person must review his or her own policy to see what is covered and what is excluded.

One of the companies we spoke with – State Farm – said that if you have “appraised” animals, such as show dogs or pedigreed breeder stock, you can obtain coverage under the “Personal Articles” portion of a homeowner’s policy, but indicated that, in general, pets were not covered.

Keep in mind, this Pet Injury coverage is different from general pet insurance which is basically health insurance for your pet.  With pet insurance, you purchase a health policy from a company and then submit the vet bills when your pet has a covered illness or procedure, and they reimburse you, less the deductible.  Depending on how you view the world, the Pet Injury coverage offered by Progressive Insurance elevates your dog or cat to a “semi-person” or an extension of your automobile, up to a value of $500.

My opinion of all of this is that all automobile insurance companies should cover pets while they are being transported in your family vehicle, regardless of whether you view them as fuzzy children or personal property that eats.  If Progressive’s campaign is successful, you will see other companies falling in line.  However, insurance is like all other businesses – they will only provide a service if they know that such coverage is desired and only we can make them aware of this fact.

Story by D. Faith Orlowski

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