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Dog Bite Homeowners Insurance

Any dog can bite regardless of size, breed, and temperament. Hence, all dog owners need liability protection if their dog bites someone on their property or elsewhere. Luckily, most homeowners insurance policies cover dog bites.

If you get bit by someone else’s dog, the owner’s homeowners insurance policy could cover your medical bills and other losses. However, dog bite claims aren’t always straightforward. In most cases, homeowners insurance covers most or all of the damages resulting from a dog bite--but sometimes owners could end up paying out of pocket for expenses beyond their insurance limits.

In other cases, insurance companies refuse to pay victims a fair settlement or deny claims outright. These instances are common reasons for personal injury claims.

Did you receive an unfair settlement offer for a dog bite? Does the dog owner refuse to take responsibility for the incident? Or did the insurance company reject your claim without a valid reason? In any case, the personal attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Contact our dog bite lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options.

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When is a Dog Bite Claim Valid?

Coverage rules vary by state and the insurance company. Generally, a victim can only file a dog bite claim when:

  • The victim had a lawful right to be in the place where the attack occurred and was engaging in normal behavior
  • The victim did not provoke the dog
  • The dog attacked, attempted to attack, and injured the victim

An insurance claim doesn’t have to involve a bite. A dog jumping on or tackling someone could also be grounds for a claim or lawsuit.

What is Considered Provocation?

A common defense in dog bite claims is that the victim provoked the dog into behaving aggressively. Provocation may include the following:

  • Taking a dog’s resources, e.g., toys or food
  • Messing with a dog while it is eating or drinking
  • Startling a sleeping dog
  • Chasing a dog
  • Hitting a dog, stepping on its tail, pulling on its fur, ears, etc.

Accidental provocation, such as unintentionally stepping on a dog’s tail, may be considered partial responsibility for the incident. Actions that--to a dog--seemingly threaten their owner could also fall under accidental provocation. If a dog bites someone it thinks is threatening its owner, its reaction is considered normal behavior based on the dog’s pack instincts.

Are Trespassers Covered?

No, liability coverage for dog bites does not extend to trespassers, i.e., people who do not have permission to be on someone else’s property.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

A homeowners insurance policy does not explicitly cover dog bites. Instead, it usually covers medical costs from dog bite injuries, legal costs, and other damages.

Furthermore, the incident does not have to occur within the owner’s property to fall under homeowners’ liability coverage. Homeowners' insurance covers dog bites almost anywhere as long as the owner is at fault.

When Do Medical Payments Coverage Come into Play?

A homeowner’s medical payments coverage is usually applicable for minor injuries. It is a no-fault insurance and usually comes in lower values than liability insurance.

When Do Home Insurance Companies Decline Coverage?

A victim who trespassed or provoked the dog into attacking will not be covered by dog bite insurance. Exceptions also apply in the following cases:

  • Household Members: Homeowners’ insurance companies do not cover injuries of household members; victims within the household would have to use their medical insurance.
  • Restricted Dog Breeds: Some home insurance policies will cover dog bites regardless of the dog’s breed, but others will not. Some insurance providers have breed restrictions for certain breeds with a higher propensity for biting, such as pit bulls (“pit bull can also apply to mixed breeds), German shepherds, Siberian huskies, and wolf hybrids. 

    If an owner has pit bulls or other “dangerous” breeds, they could pay higher premiums or purchase personal liability coverage.
  • Encouraged Aggression: If an owner trains their dog to attack or encourages it to attack someone, dog bite insurance won’t cover resulting injuries.
  • “One Free Bite” Rule: Fourteen states have a “one free bite” rule which protects owners from liability in some cases. According to this law, an individual dog has one “free” bite before it is considered vicious, and the owner has to be aware of its propensity for aggression. 

    Afterward, the owner will be liable for damages if the dog attacks someone again. Nevertheless, an injury victim may still recover compensation based on the theory that the owner’s negligence caused their injuries.

What is the Average Dog Bite Claim Settlement?

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm, the average liability insurance claim for animal bites is $49,000 in 2021.

Typically, homeowners insurance cover dog bites from $100,000 to $500,000. The coverage depends on the liability coverage included in the owner’s homeowners insurance policy. If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for damages beyond that amount.

How Often Do Dog Bite Cases Occur?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of dog bite claims increased from 17,597 in 2020 to 17,989 in 2021 (a 2.2% increase). The average cost per claim rose by 39% from 2020 to 2021 due to increased medical costs and higher settlements.

How Do You Pursue Compensation for a Dog Bite?

If a dog bit you in an unprovoked attack, you could recover financial compensation from the owner’s liability insurance. The following steps will help ensure the success of your claim:

  1. Seek Medical Attention. Seek immediate treatment for the dog bite and other dog-related injuries, regardless of their severity. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies screening is required for anyone bit by a dog, cat, or ferret. Furthermore, a medical record will help prove your injuries when you file a claim with the owner’s homeowner’s insurance.
  2. Gather Information. Get the dog owner’s name, address, homeowners insurance company information, etc. Next, write down the details of the incident, including where, when, and how it occurred.
  3. Document Your Injuries. Take photos of your injuries, even if you only have a few stitches. Images provide strong evidence to support your claim.
  4. File a Report. Report the incident to the police, Animal Control, and other pertinent agencies. Doing so will help document your case and provide a paper trail.
  5. Research the Dog’s History. Find out if the dog has a bite history or prior incidents of other aggressive behavior, especially if you are in a “one free bite” state. You could also research if the dog is a restricted breed.
  6. Record Your Expenses and Losses. Keep a record of all your losses, including hospital bills, missed workdays, physical pain, etc.
  7. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney. Recovering fair compensation from a homeowners policy is easier when you have legal representation. A lawyer can also help you when the company denies your claim or if the dog owner has limited medical payments coverage.

What if The Insurance Company Declines Coverage?

Home insurance companies have the right to deny coverage in some cases, including claims involving restricted dog breeds and coverage-specific violations. If the dog owner’s insurance denies your claim, you could pursue compensation from the owner’s personal liability coverage or umbrella insurance policy.

However, a company’s refusal to extend coverage is not always legally valid. For instance, some states have laws that ban insurance carriers from denying coverage based on “dangerous” breeds, such as pit bull breeds.

An experienced lawyer will help you determine whether or not the homeowner’s policy covers your legal claim. If not, your lawyer will help you file a case with the applicable insurance policy.

What if the Owner Has No Insurance?

Unfortunately, some pet owners don’t have liability insurance or have limited insurance coverage. While you can file a lawsuit against an owner without insurance, you will likely struggle to recover compensation.

An owner with no homeowners policy must pay out of pocket for the victim’s medical bills and other losses. Sadly, you might not receive enough compensation unless the owner is wealthy. In such cases, you could pursue damages from another negligent party, such as a landlord, or have the owner compensate you with their home equity.

Do You Need to File a Lawsuit?

Since most home insurance carriers cover dog bites, claims usually end in out-of-court settlements. However, a civil lawsuit may be necessary when:

  • The insurance company denies the claim based on breed restrictions, and your state bans denials based on dog breeds
  • The owner’s home insurance coverage does not cover all your losses
  • The defendant refuses to take responsibility for the dog’s actions or attempts to blame you for the incident
  • The insurance carrier refuses to make a fair offer

What Damages Can You Recover?

By filing a claim with the owner’s insurance carrier, you could recover financial compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical Expenses: Your out-of-pocket expenses for emergency transportation, rabies screening, hospitalization, medication, surgery, therapy, and other costs covered by medical payments coverage.
  • Disability: Mobility aid expenses, rehabilitation costs, related medical expenses, and other applicable damages if you become disabled from the incident.
  • Pain and Suffering: Financial compensation for physical and emotional harm, including physical pain, emotional trauma, mental anguish, etc.
  • Loss of Quality of Life: Financial compensation for the quality or enjoyment of life lost due to the incident.
  • Lost Wages: Salaries, wages, benefits, and business revenue lost while recovering from your injuries or caring for an injured loved one.
  • Scarring and Disfigurement: Compensation for emotional and physical pain, cosmetic surgery, lost career opportunities, and other related damages if you become permanently scarred or disfigured.
  • Wrongful Death: Funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical bills, loss of companionship, and other related damages if your loved one dies.

How Much Could You Receive in Compensation?

Home insurance companies approach animal liability on a case-by-case basis. Generally, home insurers provide coverage for smaller medical bills under medical payments coverage. However, victims filing more significant claims may have difficulty recovering compensation.

Nevertheless, an experienced lawyer can help you obtain a fair settlement based on your damages. The appropriate claim value may depend on the following factors:

  • The extent of your dog bite injuries
  • The owner’s level of negligence
  • Whether or not the dog is considered a “dangerous” dog
  • The owner’s homeowners policy limits

According to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm, the average claim for dog bites costs $49,025, including medical and legal expenses. Your lawyer will calculate your damages and determine whether your claim should exceed this value.

Discuss Your Dog Bite Case with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Most homeowners insurance policies cover dog bites if the attack was unprovoked and the victim was not trespassing. However, some carriers deny coverage based on the dog’s breed, the nature of the attack, or other applicable factors, leaving the injured person without compensation for their suffering.

The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC help victims recover fair settlements from homeowners insurance carriers and other potential sources. If someone else’s dog bit you or a loved one, we would help you navigate your legal options to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

Contact our personal injury law firm at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form for a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.

Our lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.

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