Homeowners Insurance & Dog Bite Liability

Nearly 4.5 million people suffer dog bite injuries each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When dog bites are serious enough to require medical attention, the dog owner’s homeowners insurance typically covers these costs. In 2013, about one-third of all homeowners insurance claims were for dog bite injuries, totaling about $483 million.

Dog Bite Liability

Dog bite laws vary from state to state, but dog owners are liable in most cases of dog bite injuries. Depending on the state laws and the situation, dog owners may be subject to criminal charges in addition to covering costs of dog bite injuries. Dogs may also be labeled dangerous or even be ordered to be put down depending on the laws that are in place in the state.

Dog Bite Laws

State laws regarding dog bite liability change frequently and differ greatly. In some states, dogs that have bitten without provocation are required to be put down automatically. In other states, dogs that have bitten are labeled dangerous and are given a second chance before euthanization is ordered. Breed specific legislation may automatically label certain dog breeds as vicious and require that the dog be put down if dog bite injuries occur, even if other dogs would be subject to the “one-bite rule.” Dog owners may also be required to purchase a certain amount of liability insurance if a dog is labeled vicious.

Dog Bite Coverage

Dog bite claims are typically covered under homeowners insurance policies, unless otherwise stated. Coverage amounts may vary according to the terms of the policy. If a dog bite incident causes injuries that exceed the amount of coverage, dog owners are required to cover additional costs. Homeowners insurance companies may also raise premiums following a dog bite liability claim, and in some cases can deny future insurance coverage. However, certain states have laws prohibiting insurance companies from cancelling insurance coverage following a dog bite incident.

Homeowners Insurance Restrictions

Some insurance companies outline conditions that must be followed before extending coverage to dog owners in order to minimize growing losses from dog bite incidents. This may include taking the dog to obedience classes or agreeing to always restrain the dog with a leash or muzzle when the dog leaves the home. Insurance companies may also charge more for certain dog breeds, or may deny coverage for certain breeds entirely. Insurance companies may also opt to deny or approve coverage on a case-by-case basis based on any previous history of aggression in dogs.