Homeowner Dog Bite Liability

According to Canine Journal, there are roughly 4.7 million dog bites in the United States every year. Yes, you read that right,… 4.7 million! Given the high occurrence, this is something that dog owners should be mindful of. Homeowner’s, in particular, should be cognizant of the risks as dog bites often result in a homeowner’s insurance claim.

Insurance Claims for Dog Bites

Specific Circumstances

If your dog bites another individual whether on or off your property, the injured party will likely file a claim against your homeowner’s insurance. Their approval or denial of the claim will depend on the circumstances. First, did you notify your insurance company that you own a dog? Some aggressive breeds are specifically excluded from coverage. Second, what prompted the dog bite? If you intentionally instructed your dog to attack someone out of anger, you may be denied coverage. Every dog bite is different so each claim is carefully reviewed.

Future Insurability

Whether a claim is approved or denied, the claim itself will impact your current and future insurance. Claims with particular circumstances or too many claims will have negative outcomes. Your insurance company may refuse to renew your policy, requiring you to find another company. Your future policy premiums will increase given your perceived risk of future claims.

Personal Liability

Another important consideration is the potential personal liability for dog bites. If damages for a dog bite exceed your insurance coverage, you may be personally liable for the difference. Dog bites can cause serious injury or even death, which can result in hefty civil suits against you. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost paid for dog bite claims in  2017 was over $37,000. This doesn’t take into consideration amounts won under separate civil lawsuits.

How Homeowners Can Limit Their Liability

Homeowner’s should take precautions to reduce dog bite incidents and therefore limit their liability. Here are a few things that you can do as a homeowner and dog owner:

  • Have your dog spayed or neutered. This typically decreases their aggressiveness.
  • Keep your dog on lease when in public. This is mandated by law in most cities and towns anyway.
  • Keep aggressive dogs away from children or the elderly. According to AVMA, they are the most prone to dog bites.
  • Know your dog’s temperament and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of others.

Dogs are an important part of our lives and are certainly members of the family. By understanding your pet and taking measures to protect the safety of both your pets and others around you, you ensure that they can continue to be a part of your family.