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Home Insurance Policies & Agents

Homeowners Insurance for Dog Bites

There are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States, with 39 percent of U.S. households owning at least one dog*. And, those dogs bite—there were 360,000 nonfatal dog bite injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2011.

If you think it could never happen to you or by your dog, consider this statistic: dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims paid out in 2012, costing over $489 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Thus, whether you’re the dog owner or the recipient of the dog bite, it’s important to know what and how much is covered under your home insurance policies.

Each state has laws that impose liability for dog bites. In general, state laws fall into three groups:

  1. A dog-bite statute: where the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation.
  2. The one-bite rule: where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury—in this case, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
  3. Negligence laws: where the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.

Even though the dog owner’s liability might be different from state to state, homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. Most policies provide a specific maximum in coverage, usually $100,000 to $300,000. Like any liability coverage, if the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above that amount, including legal expenses.

Once a dog has bitten someone, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, opt to non-renew the homeowner’s insurance policy, or specifically exclude the dog from coverage. Additionally, many insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses by requiring dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites or charging more for owners of biting breeds such as pit bulls and rottweilers.

Every homeowner with a dog should check to ensure they have coverage in the case of a dog bite. Insurance coverage can vary, and we encourage you to talk with your Madison Mutual agent to learn more about your homeowners’ insurance and accompanying pet liability.

*Information obtained from the American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey.


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