Who’s Responsible If My Neighbor’s Dog Bites a Stranger on My Property?

(Plus which and whose coverage will pay for the damage.)

Dog Bite

Homeowners have to keep all kinds of potential hazards in mind when purchasing coverage, but it’s not always possible to foresee some of the more obscure scenarios. So what happens when a stranger gets bit ten by your neighbor’s dog on your property? Who’s responsible for this mess, anyway?

Independent insurance agents know exactly how to prepare for these kinds of catastrophes. They’ve handled all types of claims, from the common to the downright weird, so they’re well-versed in which coverages you need to protect yourself from just about anything. Here’s how they’d help you get covered against a stranger getting bitten on your property by a neighbor’s dog, long before you’d ever need to worry about it happening.

Who’s Responsible If Someone Gets Bitten by a Neighbor’s Dog on My Property?

In this type of situation, it’s all about who the dog belongs to. So, in this case, your neighbor would be held responsible. That being said, it’s possible to handle the matter civilly, without ever taken things to court. Your neighbor could offer to pay for the stranger’s injuries using their medical payments coverage and that could be the end of it. However, if the stranger wanted to sue them, that’s where things could get ugly.

How Does Liability Coverage Help in This Case?

Say the stranger who got bitten got really upset and wanted to start a court case against your neighbor. Your neighbor would have to use the liability coverage section of their homeowners insurance to help reimburse them for legal and court fees, and to pay for their attorney and any settlements they’re ordered to pay. Likewise, the stranger would rely on their own liability coverage to pay for their attorney, whether they end up winning the case or not.

Is Umbrella Insurance a Good Idea?

It’s certainly never a bad idea, but it might be extra-important in this type of situation. True to their name, umbrella policies essentially stack on top of homeowners insurance to extend your liability coverage limits. Umbrella policies typically are inexpensive to buy and often come with limits of $1 million.

Your neighbor, the dog owner, would be the one who should seriously consider umbrella coverage, especially if they know their dog is prone to biting. Dog bite cases can cost an average of $30,000 to settle. That’s a hefty amount to be left paying out of pocket without adequate coverage. Any dog owner who’s concerned about being sued in the event their pet injures a third party should talk to their independent insurance agent about getting umbrella coverage.

What If I, or My Neighbor with the Dog, Don’t Have Insurance?

You shouldn’t have to worry about touching your insurance (or lack thereof) in this scenario, since any resulting payments are going to come from the dog’s owner, not the property owner. It’s not your fault, in the eyes of any insurance company, if your neighbor’s dog wanders onto your property and bites someone, or even if you invited your neighbor and their dog over to your house with other guests.

If your neighbor doesn’t have adequate liability coverage, they could end up having to pay any legal expenses out of their own pocket, which could get seriously expensive. However, one important detail that courts and insurance companies will consider is whether or not the dog was antagonized by the stranger who got bitten. If it’s decided that the stranger provoked your neighbor’s dog, your neighbor would not be held responsible for the injury.

What If a Stranger’s Dog Bites Me on My Neighbor’s Property?

Same thing, the responsible party would still be the dog owner. Even if an incident occurs away from the dog owner’s home, their homeowners insurance still covers them. So, no matter who gets bitten on whose property, the fault will always fall to the dog owner, unless the dog was unfairly provoked by the person who got bitten.

Are Certain Dog Breeds Considered Uninsurable?

That’s tricky to answer, because it depends on the state you live in. Each state has a different set of dangerous animal laws. Certain states do have a list of dog breeds that homeowners insurance companies are allowed to exclude coverage for. However, other states have more interesting caveats. In the state of Texas dog owners are allowed “one free bite,” meaning that after their animal’s first bite offense, it will then be considered a dangerous animal.

Not all homeowners insurance companies exclude coverage for the same dog breeds in one state, however. Back in 2012, only one homeowners insurance company in Maryland was found to exclude coverage for certain dog breeds. Their list had the following breed exclusions:

  • Alaskan Malamute
  • “Pit bull” breeds (i.e., American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier)
  • Perro de Presa Canario
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Akita
  • Boerboel
  • Chow Chow
  • Mastiff breeds (i.e., American Bondogge Mastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff)
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Bull Terrier
  • German Shepherd
  • Kyi Apso
  • Wolf-dog hybrid
  • Mixes of any ineligible breeds

If you’re unsure of your state’s specific dangerous animal laws when it comes to insurance coverage, speak with your independent insurance agent. They’ll be able to help you figure out if your dog can be covered under your homeowners insurance policy and how to get enough coverage for any worst-case scenarios.

Other Common Risks Worth Considering Coverage For

Dog bites are among the most common and costly risks homeowners face, but they’re also far from being their only potentially huge expense. Here are a few of the other most common pricey lawsuits homeowners face that could really benefit from umbrella coverage:

  • Icy sidewalk injuries: While it depends on someone’s specific location whether their sidewalk is considered their responsibility, injuries on icy sidewalks are a common case filed against homeowners.
  • Fallen trees: If a tree on your property falls and damages your neighbor’s home, the resulting damage could easily reach into the ten-thousands.
  • Hired help injuries: In the event a domestic worker, such as a maid or gardener, is injured on your property due to your failure to maintain safe premises, the resulting lawsuit and medical payments required could get expensive, fast.
  • Intoxicated guests: When you throw a party and it gets a little out of hand, you as the homeowner are still held responsible for any property damage or bodily injuries an intoxicated guest causes to other guests.

When it comes to potentially large lawsuits, it’s best to just be covered long before a situation ever arises. Umbrella insurance is designed with just these kinds of crazy scenarios in mind.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Would Help

When it comes to protecting strangers on your property from a neighbor’s dog and all other strange incidents, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. These agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in homeowners, liability, and umbrella insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help walk you through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin

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