Unfortunately, dog bites are a common incident. Homeowners insurance will cover dog bites if you have taken the proper steps in obtaining the right policy.
In this article, we’ll go over key details you need to know about whether or not homeowners insurance covers dog bites and which breeds may have restrictions placed on them.
By the Numbers
69% of U.S. households own a dog according to the American Pet Products Association. About one-third of all home insurance liability claim dollars go to dog related injuries. Of course, these are just the injuries that are actually reported.
With these staggering numbers, you need to investigate your homeowners insurance policy every so often if you own a dog. Especially, if you’ve switched insurance companies.
Restricted Dog Breeds
Insurance companies can create their own restricted dog breed lists and there are some differences in them. So, you’ll need to check with your insurance company to obtain their list. However, here are some of the most common restricted breeds:
- Alaskan Malamute
- American Bulldog
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Presa Canario
- Pit Bull
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Wolf Hybrid
If your dog is not a pure bred, your little buddy is still considered to be on the restricted list if he is a mix of any of those breeds.
History of Aggression
Even if your dog is not on the restricted list you still may not be eligible if there has been a history of aggression. You will be ineligible with some insurance companies however some insurance companies will write your policy but add an Animal Liability Exclusion.
We would never recommend doing this. If little Fido has been nippy in the past the last thing you want is a policy that won’t cover dog bites.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Assuming your dog isn’t on your insurance company’s restricted breed list or has previously bitten someone, you will likely have coverage. However, it’s very important you have disclosed you own a dog. Even if your dog is eligible, they still want to know whether or not you have one.
It is possible you could be denied coverage if your dog bites someone if you didn’t let your insurance company know you had a dog. People who are getting a dog for the first time often forget to notify their agent. If your agent does annual reviews, (like we do!) this can help to uncover any changes.
Some insurance companies will automatically include Animal Liability coverage but some will require you to add it separately. So, never assume you have coverage.
Personal Liability Coverage
The part of your policy that could cover a dog bite claim is Personal Liability. The most common coverage limit we see is $300,000. If you own a dog you might want to consider $500,000 or adding an Umbrella policy to increase your overall liability limit.
The average cost of a dog bite claim was $64,555 in 2022. Of course this is only an average so there were many claims well over this amount.
Unfortunately, one of our clients had a dog bite claim in 2022 that was 4 times this average amount involving a small child. So, if you own a dog, don’t go cheap with a low Personal Liability limit.
What if My Dog Bites Me or Family Members?
Personal Liability coverage will only apply to a victim of the dog bite if they’re not a household member. In other words, coverage won’t apply if a dog bites anyone living in your home.
Am I Covered If My Dog Bites Someone Outside My House?
Typically, the answer is yes. Even if your dog bites someone off your premises you will have coverage. Personal Liability isn’t restricted to your home address. This is sometimes referred to in your policy as “worldwide coverage”.
Medical Payments Coverage
Medical payments coverage can cover guests injured on your property regardless of who is at-fault. This is nice because there’s no need for lawsuits and attorney’s. However, the coverage limit is usually around $5,000 – $25,000, so it’s designed for those smaller claims.
What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone
A dog bite claim is a serious matter. Especially considering most dog bites involve children. First responders should be the first people you call if there are injuries. Next, we would recommend calling your insurance agent and attorney as soon as possible.
Even if you don’t plan on filing a claim, it’s important to make sure you include insurance and legal professionals from the start to ensure the situation is handled properly.
Want Help Reading Your Policy to See If You’re Covered?
We have a Policy Review Tool that is free. You can instantly sync your policy from your current insurance company and our experts will let you know what type of dog coverage you have. We would love to answer any other questions as well.