(Who pays when Fido gets a little less than friendly?)
Christine Lacagnina |July 31, 2019
One of the great joys of being a homeowner is sharing your space with a fur child. But what happens when man’s best friend becomes overly playful with your guests and crosses over into bite territory? Aside from your friend or family member holding a serious grudge, you could also end up staring at the wrong end of a lawsuit.
Though no one wants to think about their beloved pets causing their human counterparts harm, the good news is that homeowners insurance can provide coverage for dog bite liability. Our independent insurance agents are here to help you get set up with the right homeowners insurance for your specific needs. But first, let’s take a closer look at dog bite liability coverage.
What Is Dog Bite Liability Coverage?
An aspect of homeowners insurance, dog bite liability coverage provides the funds necessary to cover medical bills or lawsuits resulting from dog bites up to a certain limit. Depending on the severity of the bite, both medical and legal expenses resulting from aggressive or overly playful dogs can be extremely pricey.
Quick stats about dogs and dog bites:
The average cost per dog bite claim in the U.S. as of 2018 was around $39,000.
There were more than 90 million pet dogs owned in the U.S. as of 2018.
About 4.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from dog bites each year.
More than half of these incidents occur in the home due to pets.
In 2018, 17,297 dog bite claims were filed in the U.S.
Dog bites are the most common liability claims under homeowners insurance, accounting for more than one-third of all liability claims.
Unfortunately, dog ownership isn’t always a walk in the park. Bites can and do happen, and pretty frequently at that. Your policy may cover incidents that happen when someone trespasses on your property, and even those that occur away from home. Understanding your dog bite liability coverage as both a homeowner and a dog owner is crucial, especially if you plan to host company at your place.
Which Dog Breeds Are Restricted under Homeowners Insurance?
Dog bite liability coverage doesn’t work exactly the same in every state. Most states require homeowners insurance to exclude coverage for a specified list of dog breeds that have been deemed “dangerous” or “vicious.” However, currently there are two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, that don’t allow insurance companies to discriminate coverage by breed.
Small, nippy dogs aren’t necessarily the breeds with coverage restrictions. Chihuahuas and cocker spaniels account for a high percentage of dog bites, but they’re not typically thought of as dangerous. Restricted/excluded dog breeds are pretty consistent from state to state. The following list happens to come from the state of Maryland.
Commonly restricted/excluded dog breeds include:
English Bull Terrier
Mastiffs: American Bandogge,
Canary and Neopolitan
“Pit Bull” Breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Dog breeds that are composed of a mix of these breeds are also likely to be excluded or restricted. To better understand if your pooch will be covered, you’ll need to double-check your specific state’s laws regarding dog breeds and insurance.
Why Would I Need Dog Bite Liability Coverage?
You would need coverage to protect your wallet from any financial bite suffered in the aftermath of an incident involving your four-legged friend. Without the proper coverage, lawsuits from dog bites can be expensive to the point of driving the homeowner to bankruptcy. In certain states, incidents could also result in you being forced to give up your home.
No matter where you live, you’ll be held liable for an incident if you knew your dog had a tendency to get bitey. Certain states, however, hold a dog owner liable even if they DIDN’T know their dog got bite happy on occasion. Still, other states hold dog owners responsible if they “should have known” a trip to Bitesville was a possibility.
Dog owners can be held liable under one of three laws:
Dog-bite statutes: You as the dog owner are automatically responsible for injuries/property damage caused by your unprovoked dog.
One-bite rules: You as the dog owner are responsible for injuries caused by your dog IF you knew they tended towards aggressive/bitey behavior. In the event of a lawsuit, the person suing you must have proof that you knew this.
Negligence laws: You as the dog owner are responsible for injuries caused by your dog if YOU were negligent while handling it.
Regardless of whether or not your beloved Fido is a known biter, it’s still important to have coverage. You never know when a guest will rub your dog the wrong way (in any sense) or catch them on a bad day and become acquainted with their teeth. Having liability coverage as a dog owner is a responsible way to protect yourself and your guests.
Does My Homeowners Insurance Policy Include Dog Bite Liability Coverage?
Typically, yes. But it depends on a few things. Homeowners insurance that covers dog bite liability tends to limit coverage somewhere between $100,000-$300,000. You’ll need to review your specific policy to be extra super-duper sure you’re covered, though.
The following factors could influence whether you have coverage:
The state you live in
Your dog’s breed
Your dog’s weight
Your insurance company
Not only do insurance companies take the dog’s breed into consideration, but also the weight of the animal. The coverage line becomes hazy for dogs that are heavier and of a breed that’s widely considered “dangerous,” even if yours is usually as sweet as can be. Hit up your independent insurance agent to review your coverage with you. If you own a “high-risk” breed, you might choose to increase your coverage.
How To Find the Best Homeowners Insurance
In order to get the protection you need and deserve, you’ll want to work with a trusted expert. Independent insurance agents will not only know where to find the best coverage and price, but also help to make sense of the fine print.
Consider your unique needs, then connect with an agent to help you take it from there. Have a list of your specific concerns and desires handy before you reach out, to help the process run even smoother.
Compare Homeowners Insurance Quotes with an Independent Insurance Agent
We all know how valuable your time is, so why spend it doing all the hard work yourself? From homeowners insurance policies to additional dog bite liability coverage, our expert independent insurance agents will help you determine what type of coverage makes the most sense for you.
Our independent insurance agents stay on top of the insurance industry and all the latest discounts so you don’t have to. That means they’ll help find the right coverage at the right price for you.