third party liability pet insurance pays the bill for this neighbour's door

What is Third Party Liability in Pet Insurance?


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Pet insurance is all about protecting your pet and your pocket at the same time, right? Well, actually, it can be even more than that. Third party liability pet insurance not only protects your pocket from your pet, it can help protect other people and property from your pet too.

But what is third party liability anyways? It sounds like a legal term, which can be somewhat off-putting, especially when it comes to your beloved pet baby. That’s not far from the truth. It’s about safeguarding you from potential legal headaches (and associated bills).

It’s really quite simple and easy to understand and gives you a whole lotta added peace of mind.

As the cherry on the top of our pet insurance ice cream, it’s part of all our pet plans no matter which you choose. So, step right this way and find out the what, why and how of third party liability pet insurance.

Your pet and your pocket are #1

The whole reason for getting pet insurance, or at least one of the top reasons, is to make sure you can afford your pet’s health bills when they’re hurt or unwell. That way you don’t have to extract your life savings for your cat or dog’s overnight hospital stay, or surgery, or medication, etc.

You love your pets. We at PD Insurance love ours too. They’re cute, fluffy (unless they’re one of the hairless cats) and would never ever do any damage to stuff… right? Well, maybe it’s OK to admit that pets are still animals with animal instincts and can end up doing things you just don’t expect them to.

No? Watch this video of cats who destroy for a couple of light-hearted examples:

Third party liability in pet insurance protects your savings

Who pays if your cat leaps into a neighbour’s house, knocking coffee onto their brand spanking new laptop? Or your puppy chews through the door at a friend’s house during a puppy playdate? (BTW, read what to do about puppy teething) Or either gives another pet a big ol’ bite that requires stitches or even surgery?

You do! Hopefully you have the protection of a pet plan that contains third party liability cover.

These situations and many other possibilities that involve damage costs caused by pets are a part of life. It’s easy to imagine the escalation from a dropped flower pot to a bigger something or worse still, someone. In no time at all the financial liability becomes big. Very big.

Someone has to pay the bills. Bills for anything from replacing someone’s assets, to medical costs for their pets or them. Sadly, that somebody is likely you.

Your third party liability in pet insurance on standby

Unfortunately, you could easily end up looking at spending your life savings outside of its intended purpose. Unless you have third party liability pet insurance to help cover costs for damage to other people and/or their property (pets also being considered property, according to the law).

Situations like these are exactly where your third party liability in pet insurance steps in to protect you. Provided your pet doesn’t have a history of aggression or violence and the damage is caused to a property you’re not living in/a person you’re not living with.

It helps cover the costs you’re liable for – from the other party’s vet bills, asset repair fees and more.

However, you aren’t always the liable party. There are some exceptions that are useful to know about.

PD member uses third party liability in pet insurance to pay for their colleague's laptop after their dog spills coffee on it

Are you or the third party liable?

It’s true that under Australian law you as the owner are responsible for injury loss or damage your dog or cat causes someone else or their property.

In the eyes of the law, pets are considered a person’s property. For a pet owner to be legally liable for a third party’s loss or damages – like injury to someone else’s pet – they need to have been negligent in some way. They need to have failed in keeping control of their dog.”

– Michelle Le Long, PD Insurance pet insurance product manager

Just because your pet is involved in an incident that incurs costs, don’t automatically assume you’re liable. While it’s not always easy establishing who’s at fault and therefore liable sometimes the situation calls for a deeper look at where the cause and liability rest.

Assessing the cause

When your pet is involved in an incident that results in costs, are you always the liable party? As we’ve mentioned, the answer is no, not always.

Let’s say your dog and another dog fight, but the owner of the other dog has somehow been negligent enough to cause the incident whereas you were playing by the rules.

For example, you’re walking pooch through the park on a leash when the other dog runs up. Your dog nips them and causes damage, but the other (uncontrolled) dog’s intrusion was the initial cause leading to the outcome. The other dog’s owner letting them run off-leash was essentially at the bottom of it all.

“Most people assume if their dog bites another dog they’re automatically at fault and responsible for the bitten dog’s vet bills. That isn’t always the case.”

– Michelle Le Long, PD Insurance pet insurance product manager

This is an example of when you’re unlikely to have to use your third party liability in your pet insurance plan. Because the other dog owner is likely to be judged as the liable party.

Of course, if you’re the owner of the off-leash dog and it’s your pup who bites, then you’ll be liable. Why? Because you haven’t taken the necessary steps to control your pup and it’s lashed out.

dog attacks dog

Exceptions to the rule

Here are some examples which may legally count as exceptions to the rule of you being held liable for your pet’s damage:

  • Your pet was provoked
  • Someone else has your dog without your consent
  • Another animal attacked your dog
  • Your dog attacks a trespasser
  • Similarly, your dog was reasonably defending you or your property
  • Someone is injured by your pet but it turns out they somehow contributed to the injury

While there are exceptions, it’s important to safeguard your pet and your savings with a comprehensive pet plan. Because in Australia, having your dog attack another dog can result in your imprisonment, fines of between $11,000 and $77,000 (depending on the circumstance) as well as your dog potentially being destroyed.

Bear in mind that rules may vary between states and territories as well as case by case.

What exactly does third party liability pet insurance cover?

As mentioned, pets can sometimes be unpredictable. And while these behaviours can lead to funny and uncanny mishaps, there are times when they can lead to far more serious situations. If your pet is responsible for the incident because you didn’t adequately control them then you’re liable.

So what exactly will and won’t third party liability in pet insurance cover, and what won’t it cover? Good question and something you obviously want to be aware of well in advance. Here’s a simplified list of examples (read our PDS for details on limitations and waiting times):

Damage to someone else’s stuff (except your landlord’s)Damage to your own stuff
Injuries to someone you don’t live withInjuries to you or someone in your household
Damage to someone else’s pets Damage to your pets
third party liability in pet insurance can help cover the vet bills when your dog attacks a neighbour's cat

Just remember that third party liability in pet insurance is exactly that. It’s to cover your liability against a third party. That means it’s not to cover the expenses for damage your pet causes to your home (owned or a rental) or your belongings. And that includes anyone who lives with you too.

Remember, training and socialising your pet aren’t nice-to-haves, they’re essential to a well-adjusted pet. Whether you do this via positive reinforcement dog training or taking your pet to a pet behaviourist is based on how well-adjusted your pet is around you and others. This is just as important when you own a breed that’s known for aggression as it is if your pet’s breed is not – every pet has a unique personality.

PD Pet Insurance: We’ve got your back

Thankfully all three of our cat insurance and dog insurance plans include third party liability as part of their insurance cover. Any one of our plans from the most basic to the most comprehensive help cover you for expenses related to damage of other people, their pets and their property.

That’s on top of covering expenses for your pet’s non-routine vet visits, medications, overnight stays at vet hospital and more. There are so many pet health costs your pet plan will cover that it’s less about if it’s worth it and more about if you can put a price on the value of the protection for your pet and your pocket.

Click below to get started now.

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