If you own a dog you need to bone up on dog bite liability

E. R. Munro and Company is pleased to bring you this article from the Insurance Information Institute.

Almost 90 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States according to a 2017-2018 survey by the American Pet Products Association. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Among children, the rate of dog-bite-related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old. Over half of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bit liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000). If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above that amount.

some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Once a dog, no matter what the breed, has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, non-renew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.

Some insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses. Some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers and others are not offering insurance to dog owners at all. Some will cover a pet if the owner takes the dog to classes aimed at modifying its behavior or if the dog is restrained with a muzzle, chain or cage.

Homeowners insurance liability claims

  • Homeowners insurers paid out over $686 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2017.
  • An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased to 18,522 in 2017 compared to 18,123 in 2016, an increase of 2.2 percent.
  • The average cost per claim for the year increased by 11.5 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $37,051 in 2017, compared with $33,230 in 2016. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 90 percent from 2003 to 2017, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are trending upwards.

Dog owners’ liability

There are three kinds of law that impose liability on dog owners:

  1. A dog-bite statute: where the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation.
  2. The one-bite rule: where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury – in this case, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
  3. Negligence laws: where the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.

If you are unsure if you have enough liability insurance coverage to cover the expenses of a dog-bite injury, please call E. R. Munro and Company at 1-877-376-8676.