Luckily for the millions of dog owners in the United States, standard home insurance policies cover dog bites in the large majority of cases. Dog bites are covered by the personal liability coverage provided by your standard home insurance policy. Keep reading this article for a more detailed overview of how insurance companies deal with dog bites.
Insurance Companies and Your Dog
With 69 million U.S. households being dog owners, it is no wonder why sometimes things may go awry. Unfortunately, situations and accidents can happen in which dogs may lash out, out of fear, anxiety, provocation, or in rare cases, for no reason at all. When there are so many Rovers running around American households, it is perfectly reasonable to wonder what kind of coverage you have if your furry best friend were to turn on a friend and bite them one day.
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Insurance companies can be breed-weary, depending upon the company. Some companies will refuse to ensure homeowners who own what are categorized as “threatening” or “dangerous” dog breeds. These breeds may include Pitbulls, Doberman, Rottweilers, etc. With these types of insurance companies, it typically doesn’t matter if the dog has a clear history with no signs of any violent tendencies, they simply see these breeds of dogs as huge risks and do not employ discretion when considering them for coverage.
Other insurance companies will evaluate your coverage based on your individual dog. They go on a case-by-case basis, typically not inquiring about the breed of the dog or keeping track of the breeds of dogs in homes insured by their company. This can all quickly change in the unfortunate case that an incident of biting does occur. If an incident occurs with a dog which poses concerns for the insurers, this dog is typically labeled as a threat or a liability.
In situations where incidents do occur and a dog is labeled as threatening, insurers are likely to take action in a few different ways including refusing the renewal of your coverage, raising your premiums, and even refusing to include your dog in the policy upon renewal.
Some of the more wary insurance companies may also ask that you sign a waiver of liability in case of any future incidents that they may be concerned about regarding your pet. On top of all of these stipulations, you could be charged more on your home insurance for owning a dog that is considered “dangerous” simply due to their breed; even disregarding a lack of prior incidents.
Your Legal Liability
In the unfortunate case that someone is bitten by a dog, there are times where the owners could be held legally responsible for the victim’s injury. Depending upon which state you live in, there are different laws that specify what kind of coverage insurer’s must provide you with, what they don’t have to cover you for, your liability as the dog owner, the liability of your insurance company, etc. These laws are widely varying among the states so it is important to check with your state’s laws and regulations on this subject to make sure you know where you’re covered and where you and your dog may be vulnerable.
In general, there are three types of laws that pin liability on the dog owner in different scenarios. One, a dog bite statute is a type of law that simply means it does not matter if the dog was provoked or not, you as the owner are held liable for the victim’s injuries.
Two, the “one-bite rule” is a type of law that calls for the victim to be able to prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the dog being prone to lashing out in violence. If the victim can reasonably prove that the owner knew the dog was a threat to some extent, the owner is then held liable for the injuries of the victim.
The third type of law is called negligence laws and they denote that the owner should be held liable if they neglect to control their dog or act carelessly in attempts to do so, leading the physical harm to the victim. In rare cases, the dog owner can be charged with serious criminal offenses such as manslaughter or murder. These cases are, as stated previously, rare and the charges are dependent upon the severity of the injury to the victim and the efforts (or lack thereof) made by the owners to stop or prevent the attack.
How Insurance Policies Handle Dog Bites
Luckily for the millions of dog owners in the United States, standard home insurance policies cover dog bites in the large majority of cases. Dog bites are covered by the personal liability coverage provided by your run-of-the-mill home insurance policy.
Unfortunately, your home insurance will not cover all dog bites that might occur in your home or on your property. Residents of the household (children and adults alike) are not covered by home insurance if they happen to be bitten by the family dog. This is because personal liability coverage protects the residents/homeowners from liability in cases where non-residents of the home are bitten by the dog. You as the dog owner are inherently liable for the pets you choose to bring into your home and what they may do.
In situations where you are out and about with your dog and they bite someone, it is wise to consider whether this is covered by your homeowner’s insurance. This coverage is highly dependent upon your specific policy. If you are concerned by the possibility of your dog biting someone outside of the home, it is important that you double-check your specific policy for the fine print on how well you are covered, and if you are covered at all for this specific scenario.
On the off chance that your standard home insurance policy does not cover dog bites or if you feel that you require more coverage, you may be able to purchase an endorsement to add on to your existing coverage depending on the insurance company’s breed guidelines and if the insurance company offers these types of endorsements to begin with. Purchasing an endorsement as well as the animal liability insurance offered by some smaller insurance companies may be worth looking into if you are concerned about your personal liability in the event that your pet tries to snack on your friends.