Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
No dog owner ever wants to believe that their beloved pet could ever hurt anyone, but the sheer number of dog bites that occur in America every year suggests otherwise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 4 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year, with children being at the highest risk of injury.
Over half of all dog bites involve a dog the victim knows and is familiar with. So even if your dog has a history of being friendly with visitors, it’s still entirely possible for your dog to bite a friend, neighbor, or family member who stops by. In many situations, the dog’s owner is legally liable for injuries caused by their pet. But since dog bites can result in very large medical bills, often expensive enough for a dog’s owner to be unable to pay them, is it possible to have dog bite injuries covered by insurance?
In many cases, standard homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies do cover dog bites and injuries caused by other types of pets, even the bite happens away from the owner’s property. In 2012, over 16,000 homeowners insurance claims were related to dog bites. Insurance companies in some states might refuse to cover injuries caused by certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls and rottweilers, but some states, including Michigan, do not allow insurance companies to exclude certain dog breeds. However, if an insurance company is aware of the fact that you have a dog with a history of biting, they might decline to provide coverage for your dog. If your dog was officially declared dangerous before the policy was issued and you don’t disclose that fact to the insurance company, they may refuse to cover any injuries subsequently caused by the dog.
Although most homeowner’s and renters insurance policies cover dog bite injuries, be aware that they typically only cover injuries the first time your dog bites someone. After your dog has bitten someone once, it is expected that you are aware of the fact that your dog has the potential to bite and will take precautions to prevent it from happening again.
Like any other type of insurance policy, certain situations might be excluded. If a dog bite happens in a car or other motor vehicle, there’s a chance it might be covered by auto insurance rather than homeowner’s or renters insurance. Many insurance policies also have a “business pursuits” exclusion. For example, if you have a business that you run out of your home, even part time, you might not be covered if a customer or client comes by to conduct business and the customer/client is bitten during that time.
If an insurance company refuses to cover injuries caused by your dog due to a past history of biting or because it has been declared a dangerous dog, you may need to purchase separate liability insurance. This type of insurance coverage can be more difficult to find and is only often offered by a company that already offers more specialized insurance policies.
As a dog owner, making sure your insurance covers your pet is one of the smartest things you can do to protect yourself and your visitors. If you aren’t sure if your dog is covered by your current insurance policy, contact your insurer to find out for sure.