Is a Dog Bite Covered by My Home Insurance Policy?
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A dog bite may be covered under the personal liability or medical payments portion of a standard homeowners policy. Medical payments coverage can cover minor injuries, while personal liability insurance will step in if the medical expenses are considerable or if you are sued.
Read to see how you can get extra coverage if your homeowners policy won’t cover dog bites.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
In general, your homeowners insurance will cover dog bites under your policy's personal liability or medical payments coverage (coverage F), assuming dog bites are not excluded from your plan. These coverages kick in if your furry friend decides to use their chompers on a guest, a passerby or even the pizza delivery guy.
Will Insurance Cover Dog Bites to Another Dog?
Some policies may extend coverage if your dog bites another pet, including any legal costs if there is litigation and any vet bills for the injured dog. You must check your policy or contact your agent to verify that your home insurance includes this.
How Does Home Insurance Cover a Dog Bite?
If your dog bites another person, either your personal liability coverage or medical payments coverage will protect you. For minor injuries, your medical payments coverage should pay for medical bills anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on how much coverage you buy. Some insurance companies even cover psychological counseling for the victim if they suffered trauma as a result of the bite attack.
If the injuries exceed the limits of your medical payments coverage, your personal liability coverage will take over. With much higher limits usually ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, personal liability insurance has a greater capacity to deal with high-cost claims, especially if there are multiple victims involved.
In addition, personal liability insurance will cover your legal defense costs if the victim sues you for damages and pain and suffering. This is especially advantageous since the average dog bite lawsuit is between $30,000 to $50,000.
If you want extra protection, consider looking into umbrella insurance. Umbrella insurance provides additional liability coverage, usually starting at $1 million, if a claim exceeds your personal liability limits.
Are Dog Bites Off-Property Covered?
Homeowners insurance that includes dog bite liability will typically cover dog bites that occur off-property. This is known as "off-premise" or "off-property" coverage. So, if your dog bites someone or another pet during a walk in the park, your insurance policy may cover the related costs.
When Won’t Home Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Below are some scenarios in which an insurance company may refuse to cover a dog bite.
- You have prior claims for dog bites involving the same dog: If your dog was initially covered but you’ve filed multiple claims for your dog biting another person, your insurance company may refuse coverage for future claims.
- Your dog is on the list of excluded breeds: Insurance companies often maintain a list of breeds considered of “high risk” for aggressive behavior and exclude them from coverage (see next section for commonly excluded breeds).
- You did not disclose your dogs to your insurance company: When you apply for homeowners insurance, the company will typically ask if you own a dog and, if so, what breed. If you failed to disclose that you own a dog or weren't truthful about its breed, claims related to a dog bite could be denied.
- You intended for your dog to bite another person: If you intentionally provoked your dog to bite someone or were otherwise involved in creating the circumstances leading to the bite, your claim would likely be denied.
- Your dog bit you or somebody else living inside your home: In general, homeowners insurance will not cover any injuries to household members. You will need to rely on your health insurance for coverage.
- A dog bite claim exceeded your policy’s limits: Most homeowners insurance policies have a cap on liability coverage. You'll be responsible for the difference if the medical bills, legal fees and any settlements or judgments from a dog bite exceed this limit.
Which Breeds Are Excluded From Coverage?
The list of dog breeds excluded from home insurance coverage can vary by company but will often include some of the following breeds:
It's helpful to note that several states have prohibited insurance companies from using dog breed to exclude animals from homeowners policies, such as New York and with some exceptions, Vermont.
What Type of Home Insurance Policies Cover Pets?
If your dog breed isn’t on your insurance company’s list of excluded dog breeds, then a standard homeowners insurance policy should cover your dog if it bites somebody. You will not need to shop for a specific type of home insurance policy.
Animal Liability Insurance
Animal or dog liability insurance is an extra layer of protection that covers damages and injuries your pet might cause when your home insurance doesn't provide coverage. This coverage extends to medical expenses, legal fees and other costs related to your pet harming a person or property.
The following is a list of specialty providers offering dog bite liability insurance:
How Do I File a Dog Bite Claim?
Firstly, seek immediate medical attention to ensure the injured person receives proper care. The health and safety of everyone involved should be the priority.
Next, document the incident by gathering as much information as possible. This may include taking photographs of injuries and the location where the bite occurred, collecting witness statements and noting details about the circumstances leading up to the incident. You may also need to get a medical report detailing the injuries and treatment.
You should then report the bite to local animal control or another appropriate authority if local laws require it. After, notify your insurance company as soon as possible of the incident. Be prepared to provide all the details and any evidence you have gathered. Your insurance company will likely require you to complete a sworn proof of loss form detailing the incident, damages and related costs.
Once you’ve finished all the filings and paperwork, you’ll want to keep in contact with your provider, making sure the process is still moving along. Finally, review any settlement offers made by your insurance company if they determine that your policy covers the incident.
Tips To Prevent a Dog Bite From Happening
Below are some tips to help reduce the risk of adding to the 4.5 million dog bites that occur yearly. Keep in mind these are not guaranteed to prevent your dog from biting someone. Instead, they’re ways of mitigating risk:
- Socialize your puppy early so new people don’t seem dangerous to it.
- Hire a dog trainer to help teach your dog good behavior.
- Learn what triggers your pet's stress and anxiety to help them avoid outbursts.
- Walk your dog daily to help relieve stress and energy.
- Keep up with your pet's annual checkups to mitigate pain or discomfort that could cause them to bite.
- Don't allow others to immediately pet your dog if you suspect your dog is uncomfortable.
- Never leave young children and dogs unattended due to potential bite risks.
- Teach your visitors to have proper manners around your pet, ensuring your dog doesn’t perceive your visitors as threats.