Homeowner’s Insurance: Liability Claims for Dog Owners


UPDATED: NOV 2019 | 2 MIN READ

You have had your four-legged friend since it was a puppy. It is part of the family. You could not even fathom your well-mannered dog harming anyone. But then one day it happens: your dog bites your visitor and causes injury. The victim might even send you a hefty medical bill for their injury. But before you lose sleep over this situation, you will likely be able to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance in order to pay that medical bill. 

Dog Bites Are the Most Common Type of Liability Claim

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually in the United States and the costs for those injured have increased dramatically. Don’t let your furry friend jeopardize your savings account when it accidentally injures someone. Make sure you are covered for dog bites under your home owner’s insurance policy before an accidental bite happens. 

Am I Liable for My Dog?

Generally, there are 3 types of laws that make a dog owner liable for any injuries caused by their dog. 

  1. The first is the “One Bite Rule” where an owner is responsible for the injury if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause injury. In this case, the victim would need to prove the dog was dangerous and a previous attack could establish that fact. 
  2. The second type of liability is through a dog-bite statute which generally imposes automatic liability on the dog owner regardless of previous behavior. 
  3. The third type of liability is through the negligence of the dog owner. In this case, the owner is liable if it can be shown the owner was unreasonably careless in controlling the dog. 

Regardless of the type of liability you may face for your dog’s behavior, you may be able to turn to your homeowner’s insurance policy for assistance. 

I Thought My Homeowner’s Insurance Only Covered Property Damage?

Many homeowners may not take the time to review their insurance policy until disaster strikes. But upon review of your policy, you will notice most include “Section II” coverages that cover the homeowner for injuries to others that occur on the property. Dog bites are one of the most common liability claims for homeowners. 

Just like for property damage, liability coverages have their own limits for damages. Your policy may include limits up to the value of the house. It is not uncommon to see liability limits around $300,000. If you own a medium-sized dog, this is generally sufficient in case of a dog bite claim. You can always increase that limit if you want additional protection. 

Are there any coverage limitations? 

When it comes to dog bites, many insurance companies will exclude coverage for certain breeds, especially if that breed is also prohibited by local or state laws. Some insurance companies will not cover damages arising from Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids. Some other breed restrictions may include Curs, German Shepherds, Mastiffs, or Boxers. It would be a good idea to not only know what your local laws say about dog breeds, but also any breed restrictions in your insurance policy. 

Be aware that if you have a previous dog bit liability claim on your insurance, the insurance company may increase your premiums or refuse to cover that dog, even if it is not otherwise breed restricted.

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