Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Animal Liability?

I am a big animal lover and can’t imagine my world without my two happy, snuggly dogs - they are my babies! But what happens if my dog was scared and nipped at someone? Even the most lovable and well-behaved dogs can be unpredictable if they are in a scary situation or are protecting their owner or food. There are some pets out there that would never intentionally harm someone but could create an accidental injury - like a cat scratching a child’s face, a Great Dane leaning into someone for cuddles and causing them to fall, or a leash wrapping around someone’s foot and causing them to trip. I know that no one ever adds a furry friend to their home thinking of the potential liability, but as common as it is, you want to be informed on what your home insurance policy covers!

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But do I need Animal Liability on my home insurance policy?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Florida is the #2 state in the country for dog bites and in 2018 alone, insurance companies paid out over $56 million dollars in animal liability claims. In fact, the average claim in Florida was almost $44,000. We know accidents happen, but you never think your dog will injure someone, until he does. Due to the frequency of animal claims in Florida, many home insurance carriers have excluded animal liability from their policies and if you do have coverage, many of the policies have a limit of $25,000-$50,000 in damage.

How expensive will it be to add the coverage?

This coverage is typically very inexpensive. Depending on the company and level of coverage selected, the price will range from $25-50 extra per year.

Ok! Let’s add Animal Liability!

Great choice! But first, there are some restrictions that are accompanied with this coverage. Your dog typically cannot have a prior history of biting. Also, your dog cannot be on the company’s restricted dog breed list. Each company has their own list and you should contact your Bouchard agent to see if your animal is eligible. Even if you do have a restricted dog or a dog with a naughty history, don’t be shy about telling us! We typically have a solution to make sure Fido can still be covered.

What about my umbrella policy?

Many umbrella polices follow the form of your home insurance policy. This means that if your home insurance policy excludes a coverage, your umbrella policy would also. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and you should read your policy documents to see how your insurance company could cover animal liability.

My dog is a part of my family and always will be! But for me and my home, we would rather add an extra $25-50 to our home policy than risk a $44,000 lawsuit. As always, read your policy language to make sure you understand your limitations or speak with your Bouchard agent to understand your coverages.


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Christin Snow is a Personal Lines Account Manager at Bouchard Insurance. Christin is experienced in all lines of personal insurance. | Connect on LinkedIn

Be Safe Grilling this 4th of July

And just like that, Independence Day is here! For me, celebrating the 4th of July, like most, means fireworks and a barbecue. I personally leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, but grilling is something I can sink my teeth into. As a self-proclaimed backyard barbecue king, this is my time to shine. Family and friends are going to be on hand for a fun filled day of all the best backyard activities and they’re sure to build up quite the appetite. But, did you know that July is the peak month for grill fires? From 2013 to 2017, nearly 76,000 patients visited an emergency room due to injuries involving grilling. Here are a few tips to keep your grilling season safe.

Our first and most important tip: All gas and charcoal grills or smokers must be used outdoors.

Nearly 3 percent of grill fire incidents involving structure damage originated from grills used indoors or in covered and enclosed porches. Whenever cooking with an open flame be sure to keep the flame source at least 10 feet from structures and out from under eaves or overhanging branches. Always keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the grill during cooking and well after to avoid burns or knocked over grills.  Never leave a lit grill unattended.  Standing around the grill with a cold beverage and good company is what makes the experience.

Hank Hill would not approve but cooking with charcoal is my preferred method for backyard grilling. Both lump and traditional charcoal briquettes will give you a much tastier final product over a gas grill, in my opinion. I never use charcoal starter fluid when lighting my coals, though. It can add a chemical taste to the food and no one enjoys that. I prefer to use a charcoal chimney coupled with two fire-starter cubes. Using starter cubes or tumbleweeds over something like newspaper eliminates the risk of lit pieces of paper or embers blowing around and having to clean up messy ash before cooking. When the cooking is done, let the coals completely burn out and be sure there is no residual heat emitting before disposing them into a metal container.

I’m not a complete gas grill hater. I do use one for certain applications or if I’m too impatient to wait for coals to light. But, they too come with their own hazards. Check the gas lines for leaks before lighting your grill if it has been an extended period since your last use. If you run out of gas during your cook, be sure to turn all burners off and close the valve on the tank. Leave the lid open and wait at least 5 minutes before replacing the spent tank and re-lighting the grill. This will help to avoid potential ignition of residual fuel. If you smell fuel while your grill is already lit, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department.

Regular maintenance and cleaning are the first steps to avoiding grill fires. Keeping excess grease away from the flame greatly reduces flair ups and potential for out of control grease fires.  Maintaining the burners and gas lines will help to eliminate possible gas leaks and potential explosions. I hope that these tips help you to an amazing Independence Day barbecue and avoid potential fires. And as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” and who can be mad at practicing and eating barbecue year-round?


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Raymond Killian is a Personal Lines Account Manager at Bouchard Insurance. Raymond is experienced in all lines of personal insurance.

It's That Time of Year Already: Hurricane Season

Well, here we are again! As many of you know, hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th and even though it comes around the same time each year, it always seems to sneak up on us. Maybe it’s because it’s very scary and no one wants to think about a hurricane hitting their home, but hurricane season is officially here and we need to be ready for it.

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I’m sure you know the old sports adage - the best offense is a great defense!  This year, let’s have a great defense and protect ourselves from these emergencies as best as we can. Oh, and a big plus is that many of the hurricane preparations you can do just one time and it will last for a couple of years or more!

Here are a few tips to make you the envy of the most prepared neighbor:

Create a Hurricane Emergency Kit

FEMA has created an Emergency Supply Kit list that is a great start. If you have children, pets, or if you are elderly, then your needs would be expanded beyond this list to include additional items to meet those needs. Here’s a great list to get you started:

  • Water:  one gallon of water per person per day for three days; for drinking and sanitation

  • Food: at least three-day supply of non-perishable food

  • Can opener

  • Battery powered or crank radio and extra batteries

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Whistle

  • Dust mask for each person

  • Moist towelettes

  • Garbage bags

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Local maps

  • Prescription medication

  • Important family documents including insurance policies, identification, and bank account records

  • Cash or traveler’s checks

  • Sleeping bag or blanket and pillow for each person

  • At least one complete change of clothes and shoes per person

  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper. When diluted to 9 parts water to 1 parts bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant or 16 drops per gallon of water to treat water. Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners.

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Matches

  • Personal hygiene items

  • Cups, plates, utensils, paper towels, etc.

  • Paper and pencil

  • Waterproof container for all items

Prepare Your Home

We have many resources that can help you prepare your home for a hurricane that can be found here.  There are also so many helpful links if there were an emergency, like Highway Safety, Weather Radio, FEMA, and many others.

Create a Checklist & Practice for Emergencies With Your Family

The CDC has a full Family Emergency Checklist but check out the list below for a few things to prepare your family for a hurricane and other emergencies:

  • Where will you meet your family members if all of you are not home during evacuation?

  • What is your backup plan if you are unable to reach your family?

  • What route will you and your family need to take to get out of your community? Do you have another route if it’s blocked?

  • What items do you need to take with you?

  • Have you downloaded community alerts on your phone or computer for updates?

  • What emergency services are in your community to help you with an emergency?

  • Do you have a place for your pets if you need to leave your home? Will you be able to take them with you?

  • Have you designated someone out of the area for all family to connect with to keep in touch?

  • Do you know the emergency plans of school of your children and your workplace?

Being prepared for hurricane season doesn’t take out all the stress, but it sure does help you sleep at night knowing that you are as ready as you can be! Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” At Bouchard Insurance, we want to make sure our community is as equipped as we can be! If you know of an unprepared family, please share this information with them and, as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. We are always here to help!


Christin Snow is a Personal Lines Account Manager at Bouchard Insurance. Christin is experienced in all lines of personal insurance. | Connect on LinkedIn

When You’re Distracted, Who’s Driving?

“Riding along in my automobile, my baby beside me at the wheel, my curiosity runnin' wild, cruisin', and playin' the radio, with no particular place to go” – as the song goes by the late Chuck Berry…

Now more than ever, distracted driving is an ever-increasing cause of accidents.  Everyone has a cellphone and an obsession with being connected to social media or the latest news story at all times. There is hardly a time on the road that you don’t see another driver occupied by something other than driving. Whether it be their phone, eating, applying makeup, or shaving. Yes, I said shaving. I’ve seen them all.

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Florida has seen a 33% increase in accidents caused by distracted driving since 2013, with a total of 52,129 in 2018. The current law regarding cellphone use and texting while driving, that was passed in 2013, only allows citations to be issued as a secondary offense. This means that the driver would have to be stopped for another violation, then subsequently cited for cellphone use.

Earlier this month, the Florida House passed House Bill 107 that would make texting and driving a primary offense, along with creating hands-free zones around schools and construction areas where workers are on site. As the bill is currently written, officers would be able to stop drivers and issue citations for texting without the citation being accompanied by another offense first. Starting July 1st, 2019, officers would be able to stop drivers texting and driving as a primary offense and issue verbal or written warnings. The hands-free school and work zones portion of the law is slated to take effect October 1st, 2019. Citations are scheduled to be issued starting January 1st, 2020.

The question as it relates to insurance is how will this new law affect your premiums? Ideally, it will reduce the number of drivers distracted with texting, which in turn will reduce the number of accidents and claims, ultimately leading to lower auto insurance premiums. 

At the end of the day, it’s simple. Just drive. There’s too much at stake not to.

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Raymond Killian is a Personal Lines Account Manager at Bouchard Insurance. Raymond is experienced in all lines of personal insurance.

Boat Insurance 101

The last of the cold fronts are making their way through and boating season is in full swing. Previously, we discussed a few tips for safe boating. Now, let’s cover boat insurance in the event you have an accident on the water. Boat insurance is very similar to your car insurance. Liability and physical damage are the two main sections of coverage in a boat insurance policy. 

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Liability coverage is most commonly split into Bodily Injury and Property Damage limits. These coverage limits protect you when you are liable for another person’s injuries or damage to their property (boat, dock, etc.). Within the last month, there have been 3 major boating accidents on Sarasota Bay involving two or more vessels colliding with multiple people injured. In a situation like this without insurance, you could be paying out of pocket for the medical bills of the people injured and the costly expenses to repair or replace the other party’s boat.

On the other hand, if you’re involved in an accident where the other boater is at-fault and does not carry insurance but you do carry boat insurance. Your policy may include Uninsured Boater Coverage, similar to your auto insurance’s Uninsured Motorist. This coverage will help you recoup expenses for medical bills that have accrued due to a boat accident with an uninsured boater.

What may not be covered with the uninsured boater coverage is the damage to your vessel by the uninsured skipper. Damage sustained to your boat is covered by the policy’s Comprehensive or Collision Coverage. Again, similar to your vehicles coverage, this is protection for damage to your vessel. Comprehensive coverage is anything other than a collision and includes theft of the vessel. As well as theft of the additional items attached to your boat such as an electric trolling motor, power anchoring systems, and GPS/fish-finders.

A well covered policy will also include optional coverages that may be over looked. For instance, trailer coverage, on-water towing, personal items, fishing equipment, mechanical breakdown, and haul out coverage. These optional coverages provide protection for a trailer that may have been damaged from a hurricane or stolen while your boat was in storage. Also, your personal items, such as cell phones, sunglasses, and coolers that may have been lost or damaged in an accident.

A common misconception is boat insurance is very expensive. Compared to other common coverage premiums, boat insurance is on the lower end. With ever increasing boaters on the water, the chance of being involved in an accident increases. You may be a seasoned skipper, but that does not mean that everyone else is. Most states do not require boaters to take any training before operating a vessel or require the vessel owner to carry insurance. 

Whether you skipper the S.S. Minnow, The Black Pearl, or anywhere in-between, contact our office and rest easy knowing your floating pride and joy is protected.


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Raymond Killian is a Personal Lines Account Manager at Bouchard Insurance. Raymond is experienced in all lines of personal insurance.