If you own a dog, your assets may be at risk. There are more than 4.7 million reported dog-bite injuries in the US every year, and the average dog-bite liability case is settled for more than $29,000, with costs climbing much higher when the victim requires extensive plastic surgery. You can be liable if your dog has never bitten anyone before; you can be liable even if you don’t own the dog but are simply taking care of it. Dog owners tend to assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover the costs if they are sued because of a dog bite; however, it’s becoming increasingly common for insurance providers to quietly limit or eliminate the dog-bite coverage in their homeowner’s policies. What you should do or keep in mind as a dog-owner:
- Make sure your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy includes dog-bite coverage
- If your insurer excludes coverage for specific breeds, it’s likely that pit bulls and rottweilers will be on the list. The list of excluded dog breeds typically applies only to purebred dogs.
- Read any “endorsements” mailed to you by your insurance provider. Endorsements are amendments to your insurance policy and could include changes to the policy’s dog-bite coverage. Check the “Declarations” section to make that your insurer hasn’t set your dog-bite liability limits lower than your overall liability limits.
- If your policy does not provide adequate dog-bite coverage, consider purchasing an umbrella policy to supplement it. If you cannot find an umbrella policy, either shop around for a different homeowner’s or renter’s policy or purchase a canine-liability policy to supplement your insurance. This could cost anywhere from $150 to $1,000 per year depending on the breed and size of your dog, its history of aggression etc.
Here are five ways dog owners can reduce the odds that they will be sued for dog bites:
- Keep your dog away from children
- Instruct dog sitters to keep it away from strangers
- Be extremely cautious in the first 60 days after you adopt a dog
- Do not tie up your dog
- Post a “Beware of Dog” sign
If you, or someone you love, has been attacked by a dog, please contact us for a free appraisal.