Even the gentlest and most well-trained dogs can get themselves into a bit of a pickle sometimes. Take the story recently mentioned in USA Today in which a dog reached up — on command — to shake the hand of an elderly woman. But he accidentally scratched her, and that scratch got infected. Because of her age, secondary infections and complications arose and when it was all said and done, the final hospital bill was $80,000. That would have come right out of his pocket, but thankfully, pet liability insurance picked up the tab.

Do you need pet liability insurance to cover your pet?

Morieka Johnson covered the basics of pet insurance in a previous file, but depending on the policy, this type of liability insurance may cover everything from intentional bites to accidental property damage. If you know your dog is a biter — in addition to taking serious precautions to make sure the dog never bites anyone — it's a good idea to pick up this coverage. Because despite your best intentions, you never know when a dog with a history of biting will get spooked and bolt over the fence or lash out at someone delivering a package to your door.

Even if your pet does not have a history of biting, weird circumstances could provoke a bad situation. I was once at a park where two dogs (from different owners) were off leash. The smaller of the two dogs decided to pick a fight with the larger dog by biting the other dog on the leg. His little bite didn't cause any damage, but the larger dog reacted by biting back. And his bites did leave a mark. Both owners acted irresponsibly by having their dogs off leash. And as for the owners of the larger dog, they had never seen their gentle pup bite anything or anyone before. Even though that dog was just defending himself (and probably his humans) it was his owners who were on the hook for the vet bill of the smaller dog.

You just never know.

Aside from dog bites, pet liability insurance could also cover you if your pet did damage to someone else's property, like a landlord or a friend who you're visiting. This could include anything from that flat screen TV that your cat just accidentally knocked over to the carpeting that your dog "marked" as soon as he walked in the door.

If you already have homeowner's insurance and/or personal liability insurance, your pet may be covered as well. Check your policy to find out. And be sure to ask for details about what types of pets and breeds are covered. Many policies specifically exclude certain types of pets (such as snakes) and breeds (such as pit bulls, German shepherds, Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers). Make sure your pet is included so that you can all be protected if disaster strikes.

Do you need liability insurance for your pet?
Damage and medical bills can rack up quickly if an accident occurs.