If you’ve come into a situation where your dog has bitten a passerby or neighbor, it’s an unpleasant situation no matter how you look at it. However, it’s likely that your homeowners insurance covers liability for the damages your dog has done. It’s important to take responsibility if your dog has harmed someone else, but at the same time, don’t let it stress you — this is why you have homeowners insurance, and the odds are they will cover the costs of the situation.
Understand Your Insurance Policy
If you want to be completely sure, it’s crucial that you have a thorough meeting with an insurance agent, preferably before a dog bite happens. While it’s always healthy practice to have detailed meetings with any insurance agent, homeowners insurance might be overlooked but is still incredibly important to avoid lawsuits and costly situations later. Look for policies that will cover expensive damage to your property. Oftentimes, these insurance policies will cover the cost of theft if items are stolen from your insured property. While these are the primary concerns that consumers look at when searching for a fair insurance plan, they might overlook the option to purchase liability coverage so that they will be covered in the case of someone else being hurt on or by your property (like in the case of a dog bite).
It’s common that homeowners insurance will have some liability coverage already included. At that point, it’s the consumer’s job to research into the amounts of liability coverage that can be bought in the insurance policy. In most cases, liability policies like these will take into account damages caused by pets, like a dog. In the case that your insurance does not offer this as a part of its policy, you can purchase supplemental insurance from another source. If you purchase it from these external sources, these insurance policies will usually cover your dog’s damage costs anywhere — even if it’s not on your property.
Policy Exclusions and Specific Dog Breeds
Consumers need to be aware that it’s a common practice for homeowners insurance companies to specifically exclude dog bites from their coverage. An exclusion is an event that is not covered by your insurance policy, so it is crucial that you sit down with your insurance agent and understand these exclusions under your homeowners insurance, preferably before signing to a specific insurance company.
If your homeowners insurance already lists dog bites as an exclusion in your policy, you can look into third-party private insurance companies that offer insurance for pets. It’s worth looking into if your existing insurance policy won’t cover dog bites, as dog bite claims can be very expensive. If you are left to cover the cost of a dog bite claim on your own, it can end up being a lot of money out of pocket. If you have multiple pets or particularly aggressive pets, these third party insurance plans are worth the cost. They are typically a few hundred dollars annually because your pet is the only thing covered, and therefore it’s considered low risk. This can be a small investment considering that liability coverage in dog bite cases can sometimes be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While pit bulls and rottweilers can make great pets, there is still a stigma toward them as a liability to homeowners insurance. Because they are viewed as especially dangerous, it could be more expensive for you as the dog owner to gain insurance coverage. It’s common in homeowners insurance policies to have exclusions on dog bite coverage with specific breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers, called breed-specific exclusions.
Laws Vary by Area
It’s important to consider that dog bite laws vary between different countries and states within the U.S. What may be a strict liability law for dog bite compensation may not exist in the next state. In some cases where a person provoked the dog to attack, they will likely not be able to be compensated. It also varies in a state to state whether you were trespassing on the property of the dog owner, or if you happened to know the dog was violent. Many states also have the statute of limitations that last only a couple years, so if you were bitten by a dog, you have within two years (or however much it is in your state) to file a case in court to be compensated for your expenses. Even though there are no universal rules for dog bite laws, it’s up to you to research and educate yourself on the dog bite laws in your residency and what to do if one occurs to you or someone else.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog yourself, get in touch with a dog bite attorney as soon as possible. An attorney that specializes in dog bites and personal injury law can help you navigate through the process of getting fair compensation after you’ve been harmed.