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Dog Attacks and Insurance Coverage – What You Need to Know

Pets are a major part of our daily lives.  When it comes to dogs, 36% of U.S. households own a canine companion adding up to nearly 70 million Fido’s and Fifi’s nationwide.  While the majority of these animals are beloved and well-behaved pets, the occasional dog bite or attack will still occur creating a stressful situation and potential legal liability for the dog’s owner who may not be on the hook for medical bills and other damage.

If you’ve been involved in a dog bite, either on the receiving end or as the owner of a dog who has bitten, you may have a claim against an insurance policy to help offset costs or reimburse you for any injuries.  Making a claim against an insurance policy can often be a complicated and confusing process.  Here we break down the basics of what you need to know about insurance and your dog bite claim.

Homeowners and Renters Insurance and Dog Bites

Unbeknownst to many homeowners, the majority of run of the mill policies include coverage for injuries caused by your dog in the event of a bite.  While some insurers may offer this as an added feature, most larger, national insurers automatically include this addition to the terms of the main policy.  Renter’s insurance will also commonly cover claims of dog bites or attack.

Medical Bills and Co-Pays – What is Covered

Under the terms of most of these policies, the insurer will reimburse the injured party for any out of pocket medical expenses.  This includes copays and amounts not covered by a personal medical insurance policy.  Your medical insurance provider may also seek reimbursement from any available homeowner’s policy for fees it paid out on your behalf directly to the hospital or medical provider.  Physical pain to your body, scarring, and damages for pain and suffering may also be available up to the limits of the policy.

Prior Bite History & Dangerous Dog Breeds

Certain homeowner’s insurance policies may have exclusions built in that effect coverage.  Dog breeds that are considered especially dangerous such as Rottweilers, Pitbulls, and others known as being guardian or protection breeds may be specifically excluded in the event of a bite or injury.  Insurance companies will provide the list of excluded breeds in the policy terms and conditions, before writing any policy.  Homeowners, renters and other policy holders should review these sections closely if they believe they have a dog that may be considered dangerous.  Dogs do not have to be registered as a dangerous breed or even be 100% purebred.  The wording of many policies only requires a dog to be “part” or “mixed” with one of the bite-prone breeds for them to be excluded from coverage.

Miscellaneous Dog Bite Considerations

Dog bite law and how it relates to the insurance claim process is a complicated area that utilizes various types of legal practices and knowledge.  From insurance to medical claims to personal injury and litigation and beyond, bringing a case for a dog bite injury requires proficiency in a variety of fields and backgrounds.  In some states, there are strict time limits as to when dog bite cases can be brought.  Other jurisdictions allow for a “free bite” before you as the owner are responsible.  In a handful of jurisdictions, physical control of the dog at the time of the accident determines who pays out in the event of injury and this may not be the owner of the animal.

If you’ve been involved in a dog bite case, you should know that you’re entitled to seek legal representation from a lawyer who has experience with dog bites, injuries and making claims for each with insurance companies.  A lawyer in your corner, like personal injury lawyer trusts, can help ensure your rights are protected and that you are made whole.

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