- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

If your dog bites your neighbor's child, sending him to the hospital, do you have appropriate homeowner's coverage to pay the medical bills?

If you lose your engagement ring, will the policy pay for the loss, or should you have had a rider? In case of fire, is your computer covered?

The answers to these questions may result in a higher homeowner's or renter's insurance payment, but they could save you thousands of dollars in losses by leading you to the proper coverage.

In the case of a dog bite, most policies would pay for such an incident; however, the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) says some insurance companies may charge more for such coverage if you own certain breeds.

The following breeds of dogs have been responsible for the greatest number of dog-bite-related fatalities between 1979 and 1998, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). The dogs are listed in declining order of fatalities: pit bull, Rottweiler, German shepherd, Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, Doberman pinscher, chow chow, Great Dane and Saint Bernard.

Don't leave your protection up for debate. It's best to find out what coverage you need for your lifestyle. Not all policies are the same, and what your neighbor has may not work for you.

For instance, home office workers might be surprised to find that computer and office equipment might not be covered. The I.I.I. says the typical homeowner's policy provides about $2,500 for business equipment.

Add up the replacement cost of a computer, printer, scanner, fax machine, desk and other equipment, and you're way over $2,500.

Insurance experts say in-home business is experiencing the largest business growth in the country, so most homeowners might not have considered proper insurance to cover the added equipment, liability and income loss that can occur with damage to business. As a business owner operating out of your home, I.I.I. says, you have at least three options:

Homeowner's policy endorsement. You may be able to add a simple endorsement to your existing homeowner's policy to double your standard coverage for business equipment such as computers. The limits of this policy are up to $10,000 and can be added to your policy in $2,500 increments.

In-home business policy/program. An in-home business policy provides more comprehensive coverage for business equipment and liability than a homeowner's policy endorsement. These policies, which also may be called in-home business endorsements, vary significantly depending on the insurer.

Business owner's policy (BOP). Created specifically for small to midsize businesses, the BOP covers those whose business has grown and is operated in more than one location. A BOP covers business property and equipment, loss of income, extra expense and liability. However, it covers these areas on a much broader scale than the in-home business policy.

For expensive items in the home, such as electronic equipment or jewelry, etc., a policyholder should discuss with his agent the coverage offered through the current policy. Most policies offer $1,000 to $2,000 for jewelry coverage. If you want full coverage, you may need to add a rider or floater policy that covers the appraised value of the item. In addition, you'll want a policy that covers the loss away from your home as well.

When it comes to your yard, believe it or not, some policies even cover you there. Trees, plants and shrubs are covered under standard homeowner's insurance, I.I.I. says. "Generally you are covered for 5 percent of the insurance on the house up to about $500 per item."

Finally, you want to pay special attention to the liability section of your policy. We live in such a litigious society that a simple backyard brawl between children can turn into a lawsuit. Liability protection covers the homeowner against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that the homeowner or any family member might cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by pets. If your child or dog accidentally ruins a neighbor's expensive rug, you are covered however, if either destroys your rug, you're out of luck.

Knowledge is power, the saying goes, but knowledge also means protection when it comes to your homeowner's policy.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 12 years. Contact him by e-mail ([email protected]).


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