Homeowner Insurance for Dog Bites
All Dog Owners Need Insurance That Covers Dog Bites
No matter what breed of dog one owns and no matter how well-trained the dog, all dog owners should give serious thought to making sure they have sufficient homeowner insurance to cover dog bites or other injury caused by their dogs.
According to attorney Kenneth Phillips, a recognized authority on dog bite law, almost five million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year, with children being the victims of the most serious attacks. The annual losses from dog bites amount to a staggering $1 billion. “These losses do not have to be borne by the dog owners and victims, because insurance is available to pay for it,” says Phillips.
Recommended Homeowner Insurance Coverage for Dog Bites
Phillips recommends homeowner insurance or renter’s insurance that provides coverage for, and does not exclude, injuries inflicted by dogs or animals in general with a limit of at least $100,000 for personal liability. This amount provides for an appropriate amount of compensation for all but the most severe injuries caused by dogs.
Because dogs often end up biting people the homeowner cares about the most, such as relatives, friends, neighbors, and particularly children, Phillips suggests that dog owners may want to have a limit as high as $1 million through either their homeowner or renter’s policy, or through a so-called umbrella policy. (An umbrella policy supplements the homeowner’s or renter’s insurance coverage and pays claims over and above the existing policy, up to the limit purchased.)
Don’t Assume Your Homeowner Insurance Policy Covers Dog Bites
Phillips cautions that insurance companies often try to sell homeowner insurance policies that exclude dog-inflicted injuries. Additionally, there are companies that refuse to sell homeowner insurance to people who own certain dog breeds that have reputations for being “dangerous.” According to insure.com, such breeds include:
- Pit Bulls
- Chow chows
- German shepherds
- Siberian huskies
- Alaskan malamutes
- Doberman pinschers
- Presa Canario bulldogs
- Great Danes
However, Michigan and Pennsylvania outlaw the denial of coverage simply because a home has a particular breed of dog, and other states are considering similar legislation. Nevertheless, some companies simply exclude certain reputedly dangerous breeds from coverage.
Phillips notes that insurers are also “quietly revising homeowner policies that protected dog owners when they originally bought those policies.” He recommends that dog owners pay careful attention to all notices they receive from their insurers to see if coverage for dog-inflicted injury has been eliminated.
The bottom line is that no dog owner should purchase a homeowner insurance or renter’s policy that excludes coverage for dog bites or other injury caused by dogs unless he or she purchases a supplemental policy. Dog owners should check their existing policies to determine whether they contain exclusions or limitations for dog bites.
Talk it over with your insurance agent to ensure you have sufficient coverage in the event the unthinkable happens, and if your current policy either does not cover dog bites, or does not provide enough coverage, consider obtaining a supplemental policy.