In most states, if your dog bites someone, you are automatically financially liable for any damages. These damages are typically covered by general liability homeowners or renters insurance. Considering that over a third of all homeowners insurance liability claims last year came via dog bites – a $479 million payout by insurers, says the Insurance Information Institute – it behooves dog owners to learn how to reduce potential exposure to dog bite claims.
Claims plentiful, payments rare
Even though only about 16,000 dog victims actually receive insurance payments out of the 5 million that are bitten in America each year, that doesn’t mean that pet owners should ignore proper safety precautions.
Such oversights can prove costly. Since 2003, the average cost of a dog bite claim has risen 53.4 percent, due to increased medical costs across the board, as well as the size of legal settlements. If a dog owner lives in a state with both a dog bite statute and negligence laws, assume that the penalty will be the maximum allowed, depending upon the severity of the damage to person and property.
What homeowners insurance covers
Generally speaking, a homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy will cover dog bite claims up to a limit of either $100,000 or $300,000, notes Bankrate. If a dog bite incident occurs, premium payments will likely increase, and many insurers will even exclude the dog from the policy. If a consumer wants additional liability coverage, an umbrella police that adds anywhere from $1 million to $10 million is recommended.
How to protect yourself against dog bite insurance claims
Accidents happen. Short of not owning a dog, there are a number of things a pet owner can do to minimize their chance of exposure.
- Pick a suitable canine that fits the size and temperament of your household and neighborhood
- Take the time to train and socialize your pet, particularly if it is going to be exposed to kids and animals
- Spay or neuter your pet. In addition to being the responsible thing to do when it comes to animal population control, it tends to make dogs less aggressive
- Teach your dog to play non-aggressive games. Play catch, instead of tug-of-war, for instance
- Teach children not to disturb a dog when it eats or sleeps
- Don’t approach strange dogs, or make eye contact if a dog appears to be in an aggressive stance