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No matter their size or temperament, any dog has the potential to bite. Most states hold pet owners liable for any harm their animal causes, but homeowners insurance may pay for the legal and medical costs associated with these incidents. In 2021, homeowners insurance providers paid out $882 million for dog bite claims and dog-related injuries, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm.
Here’s what to know about home insurance and dog bites:
- Does home insurance cover dog bites?
- When does home insurance not cover dog bites?
- Other dog bite coverages to consider
- How to file a dog bite claim
- Frequently asked questions about home insurance coverage for dog bites
Does home insurance cover dog bites?
In most cases, homeowners insurance pays for injuries, legal expenses, and hospital bills if a dog in your care bites a person who doesn’t live with you; it doesn’t cover injuries to you or members of your household. Dog bite claims are usually covered under your policy’s personal liability coverage and medical payments coverage.
However, whether you’re covered depends on a few factors. Some insurers will cover dog bites regardless of what kind of dog you have, and other insurers restrict coverage depending on your dog’s breed.
Coverage depends on where you live, too. Certain states, such as Michigan, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, have laws that prohibit home insurance carriers from canceling or denying coverage based on your dog’s breed.
Dog bite coverage limits
Homeowners insurance policies typically cover legal expenses associated with dog bites, but only up to certain limits. If you’re covered, it will be up to the policy’s personal liability limits, which usually start at $100,000.
The medical payments coverage portion covers medical bills if someone is injured on your property, regardless if you were at fault or not. Limits for this coverage typically range between $1,000 and $5,000. If your dog bites someone and their claim exceeds your policy’s limits, you’ll be responsible for the expenses above what your insurer covers.
Find Out: How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?
When does home insurance not cover dog bites?
Some scenarios when homeowners insurance won’t cover dog bites include:
- Policy-specific exclusions: Your insurance policy may exclude coverage for animal bites. But if you’re covered, it typically only applies to people outside your home. So, for example, you won’t be able to file an insurance claim if your dog bites you or your child.
- Breed restrictions: Some insurers won’t provide homeowners insurance for people who own dog breeds with a reputation for being aggressive. In states where breed-specific bans are illegal, insurers may still be able to decline coverage or charge a higher premium if your dog has a history of biting.
- Claim-specific exclusions: If you have a homeowners insurance policy but lie about your dog or its breed, your insurer may deny coverage if you file a claim later on. The carrier may also deny coverage based on the circumstances, such as if you encourage your dog to bite someone.
Other dog bite coverages to consider
If your insurance carrier won’t cover your dog because of its breed, you can still find providers that don’t have these restrictions. For instance, State Farm asks about a dog’s bite history — rather than its breed — when deciding whether to provide coverage.
You can also boost your chances of getting an insurance policy if your dog passes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. Plus, insurers don’t all follow the same list of restricted dog breeds, so you may be able to get a policy elsewhere.
Once you have a homeowners insurance policy, consider whether it offers enough coverage. The average dog bite claim costs $49,025, according to the Insurance Information Institute. You can choose to raise the limits on your homeowners policy if necessary.
How to file a dog bite claim
The person who’s bitten by a dog can file a claim against the owner’s home insurance policy. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, follow these steps to file a claim:
- Get medical help. Do this as soon as possible to treat the wounds. If you delay treatment, the dog owner may argue that your injuries aren’t connected to the dog bite. Take pictures of the injuries, keep copies of your medical records and bills, and save receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as bandages.
- Gather the dog owner’s information. You’ll need the name and address of the dog owners, their contact information, and the name of their homeowners insurance carrier.
- File reports with the authorities. Contact the local police department and animal control center to file reports about the incident. An animal control officer should contact the dog owner for proof of current rabies vaccinations.
- Collect evidence to support your claim. Take pictures of the injuries to establish the severity of the injuries. You can use these in court to help prove your claims. You can also gather written witness statements and research whether the dog has been involved in other incidents to help prove the owner is negligent.
- Keep track of medical expenses. Keep copies of your medical records and bills, and save receipts for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as bandages, so that you can be compensated.
- Run the numbers. Use the evidence you’ve collected to calculate the amount of your claim. Your costs may include medical bills, ambulance bills, physical therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. You may be able to include pain and suffering in the claim, too.
- Talk with an attorney. Laws surrounding dog bites and personal injury claims vary by location. You might need to successfully sue the dog owner before filing a claim with their insurance provider. An attorney can help you move forward with the dog bite case and file a claim against the owner’s insurance policy.
Frequently asked questions about home insurance coverage for dog bites
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about home insurance and dog bites.
Are there dog breeds that will raise your insurance premium?
When you take out a homeowners insurance policy, the insurance carrier may ask whether you have a dog and, if so, to list the breed. If you own a dog that’s been categorized as dangerous, the insurer may decide not to cover you, ask you to sign a liability waiver for dog bites, exclude animal liability from your policy, or raise your premium.
Some of the dog breeds commonly banned by insurance providers include:
- Pit bull
- Doberman pinscher
- Chow chow
- Wolf hybrids
- Presa Canario
- American Staffordshire terrier
- Belgian malinois
- Dogo Argentino
- Cane corso
- German shepherd
- Alaskan malamute
- Siberian husky
- Bull terrier
- American bulldog
Are there consequences for not disclosing owning an aggressive breed of dog to your insurance carrier?
Failing to tell your insurer that you own a dog or that it’s a restricted breed could cost you. The insurer may deny coverage if you file a claim for a dog that’s not listed on your policy. That leaves you responsible for paying the victim’s medical bills, and you’ll need to cover your own legal costs, too.
Learn More: What Is Concealment in Insurance?
Does home insurance cover damage to your home from a dog?
The short answer is no.
The liability protection portion of your policy may provide coverage if your pet damages someone else’s property, but it won’t cover your own. Personal property coverage also won’t pay to replace any personal belongings damaged by your own pet.