We all love our four-legged companions, and the month of April is all about celebrating them as National Pet Month. In fact, the Humane Society claims that roughly 40% of all American have at least one dog in their household. That’s a lot of dogs — and even more teeth. As a responsible homeowner, you’re expected to have adequate homeowners insurance, but having a dog, particularly one regarded as dangerous by your insurance company, can raise your premiums dramatically. For some people, depending on your location and your insurance company, it may even make it almost impossible to find coverage. Before you decide to celebrate this month by adopting a dog, you may want to do some careful selections based upon current factors in your life, like where you live, your budget, and time you can dedicate to an animal. But what’s the big dog deal?
While your dog may be a perfect angel, there are always a few bad apples that spoil it for the rest of us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs bite 4.7 million people annually. As a result, 800K injuries from these bites need medical attention. Owning a dog is a big liability and when they bite, it’s your insurance company that pays. The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that dog bites make up more than one-third of liability insurance claims, and in 2011, they cost insurance companies almost $480 million. The average cost of one dog bite claim was nearly $30K — now you’re starting to see why your insurance company may be looking through a different lens when you tell them you own a dog. You might see a ball of fluff, but your insurer may only see teeth.
Who’s on “The List?”
While most insurers don’t have an official list of which breeds cost you more, many insurers have an unofficial list known as the “vicious/aggressive breed list.” These lists include most of the breeds renowned for their bite history, and grew out of the many CDC bite reports from the late ‘70s to early ‘90s. Although they weren’t originally intended to be used by insurers, many insurers took notice. But insurers still can’t use such reports as hard evidence. The issue is that reports like those from the CDC usually only base their statistics on the number of dogs actually registered, along with the number of bites reported. There are a lot of unregistered dogs, so numbers like those from the CDC are criticized for accuracy. Some claim such reports have been unfairly used to prosecute certain dog breeds, but insurance companies continue “unofficially” using them for reference.
Every dog owner knows each dog is an original, and it’s unfair to classify them as “bad dogs.” Some people claim there are never bad dogs, just bad owners. American Kennel Club (AKC) spokeswoman Lisa Peterson echoes that belief.
“We feel very strongly that it’s the deed, not the breed,” said Peterson. “There is no evidence that a dog would be inherently dangerous based on its breed. Every dog is an individual.”
But insurance companies see it differently. Some even exclude certain breeds from coverage while certain states like Pennsylvania and Michigan make the homeowner responsible for all dog bites, regardless of breed. Additionally, while all purebred dogs have certain characteristics, the growing trend of adopting rescue animals has led to a hodgepodge of behavioral traits.
Like the inherent nature of some dog breeds though, insurers by nature look at the likelihood of risks and what it may cost them. This has been going on a long time, and you’re not likely to get out of higher premiums or a hard time looking for coverage if you have a dog on “the list” — even if Snowball or Precious is an “uncommonly sweet” Doberman or wolf hybrid. Your dog may be a “rare breed” in some ways, but here are the breeds that typically set off alarms to insurers.
1. Pit Bulls: Although Pit Bulls have enjoyed a resurgence as a family dog, a study by the CDC examined fatal dog bites over a 20-year period and found that Pit Bulls were responsible for 32% of resulting deaths. Still, they remain the poster child — or rather, poster dog — of the aggressive breed list and likely will remain just that. Even as recently as 2012, they held the number one spot as most lethal dog, and contributed to 61% of the 38 fatal dog attacks that year.
2. Doberman: This breed, described as aggressive and protective, was a leader of dog bites in the 1970s, but was also extremely popular during that time period, so it’s difficult to say if the large number of bites was attributed to frequency or number of Dobermans owned.
3. Rottweiler: This dog comes complete with an impressive stature, and that big head doesn’t just hold a lot of drool. Ranked as the second most lethal dog after Pit Bulls, a Rottweiler bite packs more than 300 lbs. of pressure. That should be enough to pressure you into having the right insurance and taking the proper training measures.
4. German Shepard: While results are mixed on the dangerousness of this breed, your insurance company sees them as a dangerous breed. They’re known for their intelligence, loyalty, and obedience, a reason they maintain the top spot for military and police use dogs. That in itself is proof that they can be trained, and be trained well.
5. Chow Chow: This breed, often described as stubborn, protective, and territorial, has consistently topped the list of dangerous dog bites. They’re prime examples of dogs that can have some major damage-causing teeth behind lots of fur. A study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed that out of 238 dog-bite fatalities from 1979 to 1998, this breed was responsible for eight.
6. Huskies: As a large dog, this breed’s natural aggression tendencies can become dangerous when not trained properly by the owner.
7. Great Danes: While not normally regarded by the general public as a dangerous dog, this breed has been responsible for several deaths. Continuously taking the number one ranking of tallest dog alive year after year, Great Danes are kind of like small, wild horses, so it’s no wonder they can do some damage if they act out.
8. Akita: Naturally bred to be a guard dog, Akitas have a very protective nature. According to Japanese history, one of the Akita breed’s ancestors is a Matagi dog, which translates to a bear hunting dog or or hunting dog. A bear hunting dog. If you live in Montana, maybe a good choice. If you live in a townhouse in suburbia, not so much.
9. Boxers: Although generally considered less aggressive than most other breeds topping this list, boxers are protective by nature. That’s what generally leads to aggression in Boxers, and they’re renowned for their intelligence and loyalty, ranking No. 48 as “most intelligent dog” in psychologist Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs.
10. Wolf Hybrids: When a dog and wolf mate, you get a wolf hybrid. They may look like a normal dog, but Wolf Hybrids retain many “wild animal” characteristics. This is not a breed for a weak owner, and they need room to run and play. Things can turn bad quickly if you put a dog like this in a confined space or if you don’t teach it boundaries. Their “wild” streak is not only something that makes them unique and that you can appreciate, but it’s something that needs to be nurtured properly.
Owning a dog is a big responsibility and even when you can’t determine what a dog’s breed is, strong training is the first “insurance” step to take towards protection from “vicious” or “aggressive” breeds. Some insurers will give you a bit of a break if your dog gets a “Canine Good Citizen” certificate, which can be obtained from the AKC.
The thing you don’t want to do is lie to your insurer. If you lie about having a dog, or don’t disclose the breed, and your pet bites someone, you won’t be covered and your policy could be canceled. That also means any liability falls squarely on your shoulders, aka your wallet and assets, if your dog bit someone.
On one hand, you can consider it a reminder that you may actually need more liability insurance than someone without pets, regardless of breed. After all, guests have sued after simply tripping over a dog. I almost trip over my Pekingese daily, and she tends to get under people’s feet even more when excited by visitors. Higher premiums are nothing to jump up and down about, but the price of most lawsuits really are something to bark about.
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Download these NFPA safety tips on college safety (PDF, 1 MB).
College students living away from home should take a few minutes to make sure they are living in a fire-safe environment. Educating students on what they can do to stay safe during the school year is important and often overlooked.
Look for fully sprinklered housing when choosing a dorm or off-campus housing.
Make sure your dormitory or apartment has smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level. For the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds they all sound.
Test all smoke alarms at least monthly.
Never remove batteries or disable the alarm.
Learn your building’s evacuation plan and practice all drills as if they were the real thing.
If you live off campus, have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room.
When the smoke alarm or fire alarm sounds, get out of the building quickly and stay out.
During a power outage, use a flashlight.
Cook only where it is permitted.
Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy from medicine or alcohol.
Check with your local fire department for any restrictions before using a barbeque grill, fire pit, or chimenea.
Check your school’s rules before using electrical appliances in your room.
Use a surge protector for your computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.
At the time of car insurance sometimes it’s a simple way to go with what’s your friend using as well as the company commercial you see mostly on TV but it’s not the good idea. Many insurance companies have their different rates so shopping around is the great deal in getting proper coverage or the services for you. You must know what questions to ask when you are shopping around because every agent will not give you the full information on the coverage and on all your options. Always make sure to ask the wide range of questions from the insurance agent.
Here are some questions you should ask and will help you to choose the right policy for you.
What kind of coverage you need?
In many states buying any coverage is mandatory. Many states required the liability insurance which covers the cost of injured or died person in accident for which you are responsible as well as liability coverage cover the cost of the property damage, any damage to the vehicle and the legal fees. It is divided in to two different type’s i.e. bodily injury liability (BI) and property damage liability (PD). In case of an accident which is caused by you then the bodily injured liability coverage will cover the cost of the bodily injuries of other party. It also includes the medical bills as well as the lost wages by the injuries. In such case the property damage coverage will cover the cost of the property damage of others which includes other person car, walls etc. The amount for which you are covered your insurance company will pay the some amount. Remember that this coverage will not cover the cost of your own damages or injuries for that you have to buy collision coverage and the comprehensive coverage which is worth for you.
What is risk assessment?
The insurance rates you are offered are based on the several factors on how much of the risk you act to the company. Always remember if you act for the higher risk then your rate will be higher. To determine your risk your insurance company will use your data such as your age, sex, driving record, criminal record. Your age group also matters in determining the rates. Your rate will also be more if you are living in the high crime area. So shop around is always the great idea in getting the best rates. For the first time drivers the rates are always high. Keep in mind that the greater the risk means your premiums are higher. So always keep your risk lower to get the auto insurance discounts.
Who will be cover in your policy?
If you want to share your car with your friend, family or partner then surely you need an additional coverage. If you add the extra individual in your insurance policy who is the first time driver or younger driver then surely it will increase your premiums. Try to add the individual who is considered as the lower risk driver as it will not affect your premiums. Always ask the questions from your insurance agent what will happen if your friend borrows your car and hits another car or if you are driving someone’s car and get in the accident. Every insurance company handles the situations differently so make sure to clear your query on such topics.
How high you want the deductibles?
If you get in an accident then you have to pay some amount as deductibles for the damages or injuries before your insurance company covers the remaining cost. Always keep your deductibles lower so that your insurance company will covers the cost immediately. Higher deductibles can lower the premiums which can lead to the savings. If you are involved in the accident then you can file the claim. You can also decrease your premiums by increasing your deductibles. Make sure to don’t set your deductibles to high because if you get in an accident and you can’t afford to pay the deductibles then your car will not get repaired.
Ask for the discounts
There are many ways which will decrease your monthly premiums so always ask for the discounts from your insurance company for which you are eligible. If you are a student you can apply for the discounts by getting the good grades in school or in college. If your car is equipped with the safety features such as air bags or anti-theft alarm then you are eligible for the discounts. Sometimes many insurance companies offers discounts if you park your car regularly in the garage. There are many more ways to get the discounts. So always talk to your insurance company or your insurance agent to provide the discount to you for which you are eligible. Always remember your insurance company will not give you the discounts immediately so always inquire about the discounts which are offered by your insurance company.
What are your payment options?
Buying an auto insurance policy is the financial commitment so always think how you will pay for this. Many insurance companies offer the payment options i.e. you can pay the amount on annually lump sum basis or pay the annual amount on half yearly basis but the most common is to pay the amount on the monthly basis. The disadvantage on the payment of monthly basis is it could be expensive in the long run and make your annual cost more expensive. If you can afford to pay the annual fees in one go then make it possible because with this you are qualifying for the discount. Ask your agent about the best payment options.
How the values of your car affect premiums?
The value of your car is another factor in calculating the premiums. Your car model plays the very important role in this. As the vintage model cars or the red sports car will surely double the rate while calculating the premiums. If you are having the expensive cars then your premiums will be unaffordable. Before buying the car do some research on their insurance rate.
Is your claim service open for 24/7?
At what time to make a claim is always the crucial point. Before buying insurance policy from the insurance company make sure to choose the company who is providing the 24/7 online and telephone claim reporting service. Keep in mind to report the police and your insurance company immediately after the accident it is very important in your claiming process. In the claiming process before filing claim asks is there any special requirement. In this process you just have to give your name and address and name or address of the injured person and some info of the witness. Keep your policy number with you at that time as it will help you definitely.
If your car is in accident will they pay for the original manufacturer parts?
When your car is damaged many people assume that their insurance company will cover the cost of the repair with the original equipment but it is not true. Many insurance companies fit the aftermarket parts. These aftermarket parts are less expensive and they are generally made to fit in the general type of vehicles but not for the particular car make and model. Many insurance companies prefer to use this aftermarket parts. Some insurance companies are using both types of parts. Original equipment is use in the case of the safety feature such as air bags buy the aftermarket parts can be used for handles as they are less critical. If your insurance company is having the good reputation and they are providing you the good rates you cannot rule them out if they cover the aftermarket parts. For the original equipment you have to pay the extra charges.
Do they have an office where you can meet personally?
Nowadays many businesses are going through online or over the phone. At the time of discussing the important matters like insurance it is always helpful to meet the agent personally. Person who meets the insurance agent personally gets the better deal and help them to avoid the miscommunication. It also helps to clear your entire query.
Things you should know before buying the car insurance
How your insurance rates are determined
There are two factors to determine the auto insurance rates. The first factor is the underwriting and other factor is the rating. The insurance company underwrites the risk associated with the applicant and groups such applicant with the similar risk and will decide whether to accept the application or not. Based on the underwriting procedure the rates are allotted to the applicants.
Factors that affect your rates
- Your driving record will affect your rate. As the driver with the previous accident are seemed to be as the higher risk driver.
- Your geographic territory will also affect the rates as people in urban areas make more claims than the rural areas.
- Male get in more accidents and make more claims this affect their car insurance rates.
- A married person has the lower rate of claims as they are mature enough how to drive the car on road.
Ask your agent about the discounts
The insurance company reward you the discount if you are a lower risk driver. Many insurance companies offer discounts to the students with the good grades, car equipped with the safety features, low mileage. Always ask for the discount from your agent for which you are eligible.
Check for the optional coverage
The most common coverage is the comprehensive coverage and the collision coverage. The collision coverage will cover the cost of physical damage of your car after the accident. The comprehensive coverage will cover the cost of the damages of the car and such other causes such as the theft, flood etc. the comprehensive coverage is not more expensive than the collision coverage but it is the optional coverage. Other optional coverage is medical payment coverage and the labor or towing coverage.
Shop around before you buy
Before buying the car insurance policy the premium rates are useful for comparison of the different company rates. At the time of asking the rates you have to give the same details to every insurance company or the agent. You have to give the details of your car, your driver license number, the coverage and the limit you want. So shop around is the best way in getting the best deals.
For your protection
If you have selected your insurance coverage and the insurance company or the agent then make sure to make some steps. Before signing the application call the state insurance department and verify the insurance company and the agent whether they are licensed to do the business or not in your state because it is illegal to do business without license.
Read the insurance policy carefully
The insurance policy is the legal contract. Your rights and responsibilities are clearly mentioned in the policy by your insurance company. When you receive the policy make sure to read and understand the contents. If you are having any doubt or query clear it with your insurance agent.
Walking is a great way to get exercise, and many of us walk a lot, especially on vacation. Cities are also trying to attract residents by making suburbs as well as city centers pedestrian friendly.
A car crash can run the spectrum from a minor annoyance to a life-altering tragedy. And even if you’ve been in one before, the emotions and stresses associated can make it difficult to remember what to do in the immediate aftermath. We asked law enforcement officers, mechanics, auto insurance agents and legal experts for their advice on what steps to take after a car crash, including all the details that are easy to forget, and how to protect yourself and your money.
Step 1: Call Emergency Services (If Necessary) & the Police (Always)
If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately and describe the situation and any injuries with as much detail as you can so the proper services can be dispatched.
Even for small fender-benders where no one is obviously injured, it’s always important to call the police and file an accident report. First, you never know if what looks to be minimal damage is actually more insidious, and if there’s no police report, it’ll be your word against the other party’s if you need to involve insurance companies, and that can be a losing game. Be sure to ask the officer for the accident report number — you’ll need this for your insurer. If there are witnesses, ask them to stick around to speak with the police, and at the very least get their contact information so the police can speak with them later.
The police don’t determine fault; the insurance companies do. However, the police do want a factual report of what happened. Most car crashes aren’t criminal investigations, so you can give an honest account of what happened, but you should be careful about some of the things you say. And if you can, listen to the other party when they speak to the police to make sure the facts aren’t misrepresented. (Below, more details on what not to say, what to tell your insurance company and when you might need a lawyer.)
Step 2: Assess the Damage
If the crash left your car in the middle of a busy road, your instinct will probably be to move it, but proceed with caution. You can legally move your vehicle, and if you do, you should snap a few pictures of the scene first— but only do these things if it’s safe to do so considering the traffic and circumstances of your collision. We asked Mechanic Matt, a certified ASE Master Technician for Metromile, how drivers can tell if their car is safe to move after a wreck:
- Look for leaking fluids near the front of the vehicle and don’t move it if you see a lot.
- If you smell gasoline, the car isn’t safe to be near — never mind drive.
- If you have a flat, don’t move the vehicle. And if any part of the car’s body (like a plastic bumper) is touching the tires in any way, you could get a flat if you attempt to drive.
Matt adds that any odd noise or smell could mean the car’s mechanical or electrical systems are compromised and your best bet is to call a tow truck. If you do decide to drive, be cautious and pay attention to how everything is working: make sure the brakes feel normal, that it’s easy to steer and make sure no new smells or sounds appear as you drive. If you’re unsure whether you can or should move your vehicle, wait for the police to advise you.
Step 3: Exchange Information With the Other Party
Always exchange information. Even if you think you’ve gotten off lucky and your stop-short fender bump incident left no real damage (as far as you can tell), you still must exchange contact information and insurance information with the other party. Write down:
- Names of all drivers involved in the accident
- Address and phone number of the drivers involved
- Year, make, model and license plates of the cars involved in the accident
- Insurance policy numbers
If the other party offers cash in lieu of exchanging info and calling the police, don’t accept. Not only could you miss out on future auto insurance claims payouts, it’ll be your word against theirs, and you could be held liable later, even if the wreck wasn’t your fault.
Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent at car insurance comparison company The Zebra, offers a word of caution when speaking with the other party: “Refrain from saying anything to the other party or anyone else that could implicate you of fault if there is even a question about who caused the accident,” he says. “The police report will be reviewed (in addition to pictures, driver statements, etc.) to determine fault, and if you apologized or made an offhand comment about not paying attention, for example, then you are opening yourself up to be deemed ‘at fault.'” Whether speaking with the other driver, the police officer taking the accident report, or a representative from either insurance company, sticking to the facts will generally result in the most positive outcome.
Step 4: Document the Damage
Photos of the scene and of any damaged vehicles can contribute to police reports and can help determine liability and expedite the claim for your payment. If you find damage later and haven’t documented it, you could be on the hook for repairs.
While smartphones can take great photos, Matt advises drivers to focus on quality over quantity. He says there’s been a trend lately of people sending hundreds of pictures, only a few of which actually show the damage. Some advice for documenting the scene:
- Start with some photos from four to six feet from the vehicle and move in closer if you need to highlight something. For example, if your vehicle was hit in the driver’s front corner and your front bumper, hood and driver’s headlamp are damaged, take a photo showing the entire front bumper and the driver’s side of the vehicle, and then move in closer to show the damaged components. Repeat if you have multiple areas of damage.
- If you can, take comparable photos of the damage to the other vehicle and of the other party’s license or ID card and license plate, too.
- Always take photos of all four sides of the vehicle.
Step 5: Call Your Insurance Company
This one is simple: always call your insurer. Richardson recommends calling your insurer as soon as possible after a wreck — at the scene, if you can. This allows you to provide them with the most accurate and up-to-date information before you forget anything important, and will also provide peace of mind that your company has you covered. Your company’s claims representative knows that accidents are stressful — they’re there to help.
Information you’ll need to provide for your insurance company:
- Names of all drivers involved in the accident
- Address and phone number of the drivers involved
- Insurance policy numbers of all drivers involved
- Year, make, model and license plates of the cars involved in the accident
- Photos of the damage to the vehicles
- Brief description of what occurred at the accident scene
- Police report, if possible
- Contact information for any witnesses
With this information, your insurer will have an adjuster contact both parties and get their statements about what occurred. The adjuster will then review the police report, witness statements and photos. If the insurance company determines that their customer was at fault, they will start the process of getting the other party’s vehicle repaired, and if the other driver is found at fault, their insurance company will begin the repair process for you.
If fault is disputed, there will be a claim investigation during which your insurer will represent you, and both insurance companies will come to a determination – in some states, each driver can be found partially responsible. Even if you’re sure you aren’t at fault, it’s best to tell your insurer about the crash. For one thing, they’ll need to work with the other party’s insurance company directly to confirm fault and get repairs started. For another, if you file with your insurance company first, you can get your repairs taken care of faster, even if the other driver was at fault. Your insurer would then bill the other driver’s insurance company for repairs.
Telling your insurer about an incident isn’t the same as filing a claim. Sometimes it can be better not to file a claim after a wreck, for example if the wreck was your fault and you want your insurance to kick in for repairs to your vehicle, but this is something you should weigh carefully later, not at the scene of a crash. But many insurance companies actually have stipulations in the contract that customers must let them know about anything that might lead to a claim, and Richardson says violating this contract can lead to denial of your claim or cancellation of your policy altogether.
Ideally, practicing safe driving habits will help you minimize the cost of auto insurance. It can also help to keep your credit in good shape, because insurers in many states evaluate credit when determining a driver’s insurance premiums. You can see two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com to get an idea of where you stand.
Complications: How to Know When You Need a Lawyer
The biggest factor in deciding whether or not to contact a lawyer following a crash is if there has been an injury, says New York attorney Zev Goldstein. “If someone was hurt, especially if they were hurt badly, both parties need to contact a lawyer in order to be sure that their interests are represented properly.” Other reasons to consider a lawyer after a crash:
- There was a fatality and you were at fault;
- You’re having trouble with your insurance company;
- The incident took place in a construction zone;
- The police report is inaccurate, or lists you as at fault when you weren’t;
- You have questions or confusions about anything beyond the basics;
- If the other party obtains counsel (let lawyers deal with lawyers).