It happens in the blink of an eye. Your normally docile and sweet dog has bitten someone at the dog park, and now that you’ve gotten your pup settled down, you are panicking about how much this is going to cost you. Well, if you’re a homeowner, there’s no need to panic immediately because homeowner’s insurance can help after a dog bite in a dog park. Even if your dog was provoked into biting someone, you could be covered for the expenses resulting from the injury.
Liability Coverage for Dog Bites
You may already know that, in many cases, homeowner’s insurance covers dog bites on your property. Still, you might be surprised to learn that your policy might also cover dog bites off your property, such as at a dog park. The personal liability portion of your homeowner’s policy covers medical expenses for the injured person in the dog bite incident. It will also cover any legal expenses you incur from the dog bite.
This coverage is always capped at a specific amount, which is specified at the time you take out your policy. The more coverage you have, the higher your premium will be, but most insurance companies in the US offer between $100,000 and $500,000 in personal liability insurance. Dog bites can be expensive, especially if they are severe or get infected, so make sure your policy includes enough liability coverage for the worst-case scenario.
As with any insurance policy, there are some exclusions to dog bite coverage on a homeowner’s insurance policy. Specific dog breeds considered to have a higher risk of biting people or other animals are often excluded from standard homeowner’s insurance policies. These breeds include pit bulls, chow chows, rottweilers, Dobermans, and others. Make sure you check your policy if you have one of these breeds.
You can usually still get coverage for many of these breeds, but you must take out an extra rider on your policy. In other words, you must pay more to get a dangerous dog breed covered, even if you are confident your dog won’t bite anyone. Insurance companies have had to pay for dog bite injuries from these breeds too often for them to take chances.
Some insurance companies will examine your dog’s history before issuing a policy or providing coverage rates. Additionally, if you’ve been a customer of a specific insurance company for a long time, they may be more flexible with dangerous breed coverage. You might even be able to obtain coverage for your dog by submitting a certificate of training that shows you have taken steps to prevent dog bites from happening.
Your insurance company will also consider your dog’s bite history before determining if they will extend coverage for you under your homeowner’s policy. If your dog has previously bitten another person or animal, your insurance company may deny coverage for dog bites for that dog. This is because your dog is now deemed “high risk”, and insurance companies don’t like risks.
Some states have a “one bite rule,” which means that if your dog bites someone one time, you may not be held liable for injuries related to the bite. But, you are “put on notice” that your dog has a propensity for biting, and if it bites someone else, you will be held responsible.
Again, you might be able to take out a special rider on your high risk dog or pay a higher premium for a policy that does cover a subsequent bite from your dog. If you’re in this situation, check with your insurance company to see what options are available to you.
Other states are considered “strict liability” states, and your dog’s past biting history is not considered. In these states, even if you take all the precautions you can to keep your dog from biting someone, you will still be liable for expenses if your dog bites someone.
The only caveat to this law is that the dog bite has to occur in a public space or where the victim has a lawful right to be (i.e., a guest in your home). If the victim trespasses on your property or if your dog is on private property and the victim taunts your dog, you may be able to successfully avoid liability.
No one wants to think that their dog is capable of biting someone, but when you take your pet to a dog park, anything can happen. If your dog gets scared, is provoked, or is just out of its comfort zone, it might act in a way you don’t expect. Be sure your homeowner’s insurance policy is up-to-date with dog bite coverage to protect yourself in case you find yourself in this situation.