Do I Need Dog Owners’ Liability Insurance?

Categories: Dog Bites

Angry barking dog in a steel cageWhen a dog bites a person, the dog’s owner can be held liable for the incident. This means that the owner will be responsible for damages, including the medical bills of the victim. If the dog owner has insurance, such as homeowner’s insurance, then the financial responsibility for the bite will not be as great for the homeowner. Aside from homeowner’s insurance, car insurance might be able to cover a dog bite that occurs in a vehicle. You also have the option to purchase dog liability insurance if you so choose.

Homeowner’s Insurance

In ALL cases where a dog bites or attacks someone, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance will cover not only your medical bills, but will also compensate you for your pain and suffering. This is true no matter where the incident occurred. Therefore, if the dog bite victim was attacked on the sidewalk, at a park, or at a pet store, you will be covered.

The only time where coverage will not be offered is when the insurance company, after they complete their investigation, concludes that the incident was not the fault of the dog owner, but the fault of the victim. This occurs only in limited situations, such as:

  • When it is determined that the victim provoked the dog. This occurs when the victim intentionally tries to get the dog riled-up. The victim thinks it is play, but the dog thinks otherwise and attacks.
  • When the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property. This occurs, for example, when the victim reaches over a fence, enabling the dog to reach the victim’s hand.
  • When the victim ignores the dog owner’s warning to keep away from the dog, and those warnings are ignored.

In the above situations, the insurance company will likely deny the claim; however, they will usually agree to pay the medical bills incurred by the victim, up to the “medical payment coverage” limits the homeowner chose. This amount is typically $1,000, but it can be much higher.

There are some companies that will not issue an insurance policy to a homeowner based on the breed of dog that is in the home, such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Dobermans, and Akitas.

Likewise, if the homeowner fails to inform the insurance company about the existence of the dog when applying for insurance, the insurance company can disclaim coverage for that reason alone The contract will be considered fraudulent and therefore void.

Lastly, a homeowner’s insurance company may drop their insured if the dog has multiple bite or attack incidents resulting in liability.

Car Insurance

Many people take their dogs with them for a ride in the car. Because of the close quarters, and sometimes long trips, dogs can become irritable. This means that dog bites can occur in a car. If this is the case, car insurance policies may cover the dog bites.

In instances where a dog bites someone in a car, the car insurance and homeowner insurance companies must decide which insurance company should pay for the incident. This decision can sometimes end up in court. Courts across the country have ruled in favor of both sides, so there is no definitive answer as to which insurance company should pay for a dog bite incident in a vehicle.

Liability Insurance for Dog Ownership

A third option to cover yourself when owning a dog is buying liability insurance for the dog. When seeking liability insurance for a dog, you might need a policy for one of the following factors:

  • Local law requires a policy for specific breeds of dog
  • Your dog was declared dangerous by a judge or animal control
  • The dog has already bitten someone
  • You want to protect yourself in case your dog should bite someone

Sometimes, a traditional insurance company will not provide you with a policy. Instead, you will need to acquire a policy from a specialty insurer. A policy for a dog will cost anywhere from $1,000-$1,500 per year and it will usually provide you with approximately $100,000 of coverage.

Have you been bitten by a dog? Contact the law offices of Jeffrey Harlan Penneys, Esq. today at 215-987-3550 (office) or 215-771-0430 (cell), or submit our online form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.