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Dog bites are unfortunately a common occurrence, with over 4.5 million dog bites each year in the United States alone. Dog bites can range in severity from a small nip to severe mauling, and they can have lasting physical and emotional consequences for the victim. Will homeowners insurance cover a dog bite? The answer depends on your specific homeowners insurance policy and the details surrounding the incident. Keep reading to learn more about will homeowners insurance cover a dog bite.
How Homeowners Insurance May Cover Dog Bites?
There are a few ways will homeowners insurance cover a dog bite:
Liability Protection: Homeowners insurance includes liability coverage in case you are sued for damages or injuries caused by your dog biting someone. This coverage helps pay for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages up to your policy limits.
Medical Payments: Your homeowners policy may include medical payments coverage, which provides payments regardless of fault for medical expenses to people injured on your property. This can help pay the victim’s medical bills from a dog bite.
Your Own Injuries: If you or a family member living with you is bitten by a dog, your homeowners policy may cover your medical bills and lost wages.
Keep reading: Can I Use My Insurance For My Dog?
Factors That Determine Coverage
Several factors determine whether and how will homeowners insurance cover a dog bite:
Breed: Some insurance companies may exclude certain dog breeds like pit bulls or Rottweilers from liability coverage.
Bite History: If your dog has a history of biting, your insurance company may deny a new claim or exclude coverage for that dog.
Location: Whether the bite occurred on or off your property impacts coverage. Bites on your property are more likely to be covered.
Provocation: If the victim was teasing or provoking your dog when the bite occurred, your liability may be reduced.
Policy Limits: Homeowners policies have liability limits, usually $100,000-$300,000. Damages above that would not be covered.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
If your dog bites someone, take these steps:
Seek any needed medical care for the victim.
Exchange contact/insurance information with the victim.
Take photos of the wounds and scene.
Contact your insurance agent to file a claim.
Do not admit fault or make any payments to the victim.
Save vet records showing your dog is up-to-date on shots.
Save proof of leash and licensing laws being followed.
Consider increasing liability coverage in the future.
Dog Bite Liability Laws
Laws pertaining to dog bites and homeowners insurance include:
Strict liability: The dog owner is liable even if they had no prior knowledge the dog was dangerous. This applies in most states.
One-bite rule: The owner gets one chance before they are liable for subsequent bites. This is the law in some states.
Negligence laws: The victim must prove the owner was negligent in controlling the dog to claim damages. Used in a few states.
Keep reading: How Much is Dog Walking Insurance?
Tips to Prevent Dog Bites
You can help prevent dog bites and reduce insurance claims by:
- Properly socializing and training your dog.
- Keeping your dog leashed when outside.
- Monitoring your dog around strangers and children.
- Having your dog spayed/neutered.
- Removing objects/situations that trigger aggression.
- Posting “Beware of Dog” signs.
- Installing secure fencing around your yard.
- Using a muzzle if your dog has aggressive tendencies.
Common Exclusions to Dog Bite Coverage
Standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover dog bites under these circumstances:
Bites to you, your family members, or household residents
Bites by dogs used for illegal activities or dog fighting
Bites to trespassers if your dog’s area is clearly marked
Bites by dogs used for business or professional purposes
Bites to any person that lives at the insured location
Bites if the victim was injured while trespassing or provoking the dog
Purchasing Umbrella or Dog Liability Insurance
If you own a high-risk dog breed or want extra protection, consider these options:
Umbrella insurance – Provides additional liability coverage above your homeowners policy limits.
Dog liability insurance – Special liability policies just covering dog bites or damage.
Keep reading: Can You Put Life Insurance on a Dog?
The Bottom Line
Will homeowners insurance cover a dog bite? In most cases, yes – your liability coverage will pay for injuries and damages from a dog bite. However, exclusions apply if the victim lives with you, was trespassing, or was harassing your dog. Following leash laws and proper training can reduce the risk of bites. Umbrella or dog liability insurance can provide additional protection if you own a high-risk breed.
Consult your insurer after any incident to file a claim and understand your coverage. Proper precautions can help avoid dog bites so you never need to find out the hard way what your homeowners insurance covers.
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