Stupid pets

You're out on a walk with Dudley, your mild-mannered pooch. Suddenly, the mutt gets it into his head that a passing pedestrian poses a deadly threat. Without warning, he lunges to the end of his leash and sinks his fangs into her leg. A few days later, the pedestrian sends you her rather hefty emergency-room bill, and there's talk of emotional distress and lost wages.

Once again, it's your homeowners insurance policy to the rescue -- maybe. Many insurers have gotten so sensitive to dog-bite claims that they won't insure owners of certain breeds or dogs that have already bitten someone. To get insurance, these owners often have to agree to an exclusion that prevents them from making a claim related to the animal.

Even if you are covered, you'll probably want to invest in a visit to the veterinarian (to see if there's a physical cause for the aberrant behavior) and in a good trainer (to try to ensure it doesn't happen again). A dog that bites even once is a huge liability to you and the people around you -- and can be an outright danger.

The dorm thief

College dorms are packed with tempting goodies, including computers, televisions, music players and bicycles. The good news, according to the Insurance Information Institute: If you live in a dorm and you're considered a dependent of your parents, their homeowners insurance policy covers your stuff from destruction and theft -- with one big exception.

Few insurance policies cover the value of digital music collections or other computer files. So if the thief makes off with your iPad plus the computer that contains your music and video library, you wouldn't get financial help replacing files potentially worth thousands of dollars. That's yet another reason it's essential to back up all your files regularly and store the backups off-site or online.

Also, the protection of your parents' insurance disappears when you move off campus. When you're ready to kiss dorm life goodbye, pony up the $200 or so necessary to buy a renters insurance policy.

A visit from the Grinch

This happened to a friend, and it's a distressingly common tale at the end of the year. She needed to make a quick run into a store, so she parked her car loaded with Christmas presents in a crowded mall parking lot in the middle of the day. She returned five minutes later to find a broken window and all the gifts gone.

Auto insurance covers the damage to the car but not the theft of its contents, unless the stolen contents are supposed to be attached to the vehicle, such as a car stereo. However, holiday presents are considered personal possessions, so they're typically covered under your homeowners or renters coverage.

You'll have to fill out a police report, of course, and your claim is subject to your deductible. If you've got a high deductible, you may not be out of luck if you used a gold or platinum credit card to buy the gifts. These types of cards typically offer "purchase protection" that will reimburse you for the theft of recently bought items, up to a certain limit (often $1,000). See your card agreement for details.

Counterfeit cash

If you unknowingly accepted a bunch of bogus Benjamins, you may not be completely out of luck.

Homeowners and renters insurance typically provide a limited amount of coverage for losses due to counterfeit money, check forgery and credit card fraud. The limits are usually low, $500 to $1,000, and deductibles may apply. Talk to your insurer for details.

The locksmith

Some of us are more absent-minded than others. If you've ever slammed your car door and then realized -- that all-important split second too late -- that your keys are dangling from the ignition, you're one of us.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

Roadside assistance is an optional coverage through most auto insurers, and it's one that can quickly pay for itself with one or two lockouts or tows. You also can get roadside-assistance coverage through a variety of other sources, including your cellphone company, your car's manufacturer or a full-service plan offered by an auto club or other provider.

Something to note: Exactly who or what is covered depends on the provider. Your auto insurer typically provides coverage only for the insured car, while an auto club service covers the driver, regardless of the vehicle being driven. Cellphone plans typically cover whoever has the phone at the time, so you can lend it and your coverage to a friend or family member.

Also, your insurer may count roadside-assistance calls against you when determining your premiums, although it's typically a fairly minor negative. If you're concerned, though, opt for another roadside-service provider.

Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.