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Does Home Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

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Having a canine companion around as a member of your family is certainly rewarding. But what happens if someone is bitten or injured by your pet while they are at your home? Who pays for their medical bills? Here’s what you need to know about dog bites and how they affect your home insurance coverage.

When Your Pet Injures a Guest

In most instances, when your dog causes an injury to a guest in your home or anyone making a lawful visit to your property, your home insurance can cover their medical bills. It can also cover injuries sustained to people away from your property- particularly if the dog is unprovoked or unleashed. However, it is important to remember that there is no specific coverage written into your policy that covers pet attacks. Rather, this is considered part of the liability portion of your homeowner’s insurance policy. It requires that you are legally responsible for the injury in some way.  There is plenty of legal precedent for homeowners being held accountable for the actions of a domestic pet, which is why the homeowners insurance liability section is typically invoked- but it isn’t an explicit coverage.  In addition, the same portion of your policy would cover damage to personal property, such as if your dog gets out and damages a neighbor’s fence or other physical property.

Dog Bites and Family Members

What happens if your pet dog bites a family member who lives in your home? In that case, any medical payments coverage you have on your home insurance policy would pay for the trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room for things like stitches, shots, or whatever else medically necessary after this type of injury. The medical payments coverage is a no-fault benefit that can apply to any member of the household or a visitor without invoking legal liability.  The amount is typically much smaller and might be used toward the deductible for your primary medical insurance.

Breed Restrictions

When it comes to dog bites and home insurance coverage, it is important to realize that your insurer might limit or refuse coverage, or deny to pay claims if you have a prohibited dog breed or have not fully disclosed the ownership of a prohibited breed.  Common limitations we have seen include pitbull, rottweiler, doberman pinscher, american staffordshire, chow, and even german shepherds.  Clearly, not all of these dogs are inherently dangerous, but insurance premiums and coverage are driven by statistics, and these breeds are involved in a disproportionate number of dog bite claims. While it might not seem fair for owners with harmless companions that happen to be one of these or other breeds that get labeled as ‘aggressive’, the truth is that you should disclose the ownership of your dog breed at the time of application. If you have a breed that is on the ‘naughty’ list, be prepared to assume the risk and/or pay higher premiums if some insurance companies refuse to offer liability coverage. If you misrepresent dog ownership or breen information on your application, claims can be denied on that basis as well.

For questions about how to navigate these issues on your home policy- our licensed agents are here to help you navigate your risk and help you find the best coverage at the lowest possible rate? Please contact our team of experts at Piedmont Insurance Associates today to start the conversation.