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When Spot Bites: Dogs and Liability

Sep 18, 2019 Decorative image of angry dog

In America, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are bitten more often than girls, and children from age 5 to 9 are the most frequent victims.

In 2018, more than 17,000 dog bite claims were filed in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average cost per claim was $39,000. If your dog bites someone, are you prepared?

Who Pays the Claim?

While most homeowners and renters insurance policies provide coverage for this exposure, some people elect to secure umbrella/excess liability coverage in addition to their standard policy. However, dog owners should be aware of the following:

  • Not all insurance carriers will cover all dog breeds.
  • If your dog bites or injures someone, coverage may be excluded going forward or your insurance premium may rise.
  • If a claim exceeds your insurance coverage limits, you will be responsible for paying the remainder of the claim.

Additionally, it’s important to know that each state has its own laws regarding dog owners and their liability for injuries.

What Can You Do?

If you own a dog, speak with your insurance broker to clarify whether coverage is in place, how much coverage is in place, and whether there are restrictions or limits. In addition to excluding certain breeds, for example, an insurance carrier could reduce coverage if a dog bite incident occurs away from the homeowner’s property. Know what’s included and excluded from your policy.

Of course, prevention is always better than facing a lawsuit. Dog owners can take some simple steps to reduce their risk:

  • Choose your pet wisely. Some breeds are more aggressive than others.
  • Neuter or spay your dog. Many pets become calmer after this procedure.
  • Train and socialize your dog so that it is comfortable in a variety of settings.
  • Avoid stressful situations for your pet, if possible.
  • Always maintain control of your animal at home and in public spaces. A good leash could turn out to be your best friend.

For More Information

Contact Hylant to discuss your personal insurance needs.

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted adviser for insurance-related questions.

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