Are Dog Bites Covered By Insurance?

Posted on: 8 May 2017

Dogs can be great companions, but they can also put their owners at risk of being sued if they bite people without provocation. Luckily, you may be saved from having to pay thousands of dollars in damages if you have homeowner's, renter's, or auto insurance, as these policies may cover the damages and losses a victim suffers from dog bite related injury. Here's what you need to know about how the coverage typically works.

There May Be a One-Bite Rule

One of the purposes of homeowner's and renter's insurance is to protect the property owner or tenant from negligent acts, including their own. Therefore, your insurance provider will typically pay a dog bite claim. However, many companies have one-bite rules where they will only pay out on this type of claim once. Any subsequent claims may be denied or your insurance cancelled if the dog bites someone else.

This is more likely to happen if you have a breed of dog that's known to bite or is considered dangerous. In fact, some policies exclude coverage for certain breeds because of this issue. People who own pit bulls or rottweilers, for instance, often find their insurance policies specifically exclude their canine friends because of the perceived danger of the breeds.

As a bonus, though, if your insurance does cover your dog, your policy will usually cover incidents regardless of where they occur. So even if your dog bites someone while you were walking the animal in the park, your homeowner's or renter's policy will pay the claim. Be aware, though, that some polices exclude incidents that occur in vehicles, so it's important to read your policy to see if this is the case.

There Must Be a Connection to the Vehicle

If your dog bites someone while he or she is in a vehicle, your auto insurance policy may cover damages and losses associated with the incident. However, many vehicle insurance companies require there be a clear connection to the car or truck before they'll pay the claim.

In the case of Diehl v. Cumberland Mutual Fire Ins. Co, the court ruled the auto insurance company was required to pay the victim's damages because the dog attack arose of the use of the vehicle to transport it. Additionally, the way the vehicle was designed made it easier for the dog to attack the victim, thus having a direct impact on the incident.

What this means for you is that it may not be enough that the dog just happened to be in the vehicle when it bit someone. You may have to prove the vehicle was an integral part of the situation in order to get the auto insurance company to cover the incident.

Additionally, the company may not cover the dog bite at all if you're using your vehicle for business purposes. For example, if you are a dog breeder who was transporting the dog to its new owner, your auto insurance company may not cover the incident because it arose out of a business transaction, which is covered by commercial auto insurance.

The Insurance Companies May Try to Punt the Claim

If your homeowner's (or renter's) and your automobile insurance may be responsible for paying the claim, the companies will typically try to push the claim onto each other. This can result in months or even years of going back and forth between them trying to either get the claim paid or be reimbursed for money you gave the victim out of your own pocket.

Insurance companies maintain their profit margins by paying as few claims as possible, so you may need to hire a personal injury attorney that specializes in dog bit accidents to sort the situation out and arrive at some time of resolution. For more information about this issues or help defending against a dog bite claim, contact a lawyer.


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