Homeowners Insurance After Dog Bites

homeowners insurance after dog bite

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

If your dog bites a visitor in your home, are you covered for liability in your homeowners insurance? Maybe, maybe not.

Dog Bite Statistics

Dog bites are fairly common, with roughly 4.5 million individuals bitten by dogs annually. Bite rates are highest among children, especially kids ages 5 to 9 years old.

More than half of all dog bites happen at home, so having liability coverage for these injuries is smart. If your insurance policy covers dog bites, it will be for up to the policy’s liability limits, generally $100,000 to $300,000. Anything above these limits is the responsibility of the dog owner.

Homeowners Insurance after Dog Bites

Insurance companies have different ways of dealing with dog bite injuries—or not. And these details are often influenced by the particular state, with some providers provisionally agreeing to include dog bite liability in a policy, or not insuring for dog bite liability at all.

Your insurance provider might limit coverage or choose not to include dog bite liability, depending on several factors. Some points that dog owners should consider:

  • Certain breeds considered dangerous, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, can cause your insurance company to not provide dog bite coverage.
  • If your dog has been involved in biting incidents, the insurance company might go ahead and take on the risk but charge you more, increase premiums based on the dog’s breed or have the owner sign a liability waiver.
  • Past claims of your dog’s bite history can trigger a higher premium, nonrenewal or denial of liability coverage for your pet should it bite someone.
  • Liability coverage for a biter might require you to have your dog trained, muzzle the dog or keep it restrained.
  • If you’ve filed claims for dog bite liability in the past, your insurance company might
    • Charge higher premiums.
    • Hand you a nonrenewal notice.
    • Exclude dog liability coverage from your policy.

Liability Claims by the Numbers

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurers paid $675 million in liability claims dog-related injuries in 2018, including bites. But bite claims nationwide decreased in 2018, from 18,522 in 2017 down to 17,297 in 2018 (that’s down 6.6 percent).

In the meantime, average cost per claim increased by 5.3 percent in 2018. III statistics show that dog bite claims throughout the country was $39,017 in 2018, which is up from $7,051 in 2017. If we look at 2003 to 2018, the average cost per claim nationally rose by more than 103 percent, mainly due to rising medical costs and increased settlement amounts

Estimated Number and Cost of Dog Bite Claims Nationwide, 2003-2018 (1)

Year Value of claims ($ millions) Number of claims Average cost per claim (2)
2003 $324.2 16,919 $19,162
2004 318.9 15,630 20,406
2005 321.1 14,295 22,464
2006 322.4 14,661 21,987
2007 356.2 14,531 24,511
2008 387.0 15,823 24,461
2009 412.0 16,586 24,840
2010 412.6 15,770 26,166
2011 490.8 16,695 29,396
2012 489.7 16,459 29,752
2013 483.7 17,359 27,862
2014 530.8 16,550 32,072
2015 571.3 15,352 37,214
2016 602.2 18,123 33,230
2017 686.3 18,522 37,051
2018 674.9 17,297 39,017
Percent change, 2017-2018 -1.7% -6.6% 5.3%
Percent change, 2003-2018 108.2% 2.2% 103.6%

(1) Includes other dog-related injuries.
(2) Calculated from unrounded data.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

State and Local Legislation

Cities and states choose to have different approaches to dog bite liability insurance.

  • Some states specify that the dog owner is liable for bite injuries if the owner knew the pet was a biter.
  • Other states stipulate that the dog owner is liable whether or not the owner knew the dog had a tendency to bite.
  • Some states legislate that the owner is responsible if the owner knew or should have known their dog is a biter.
  • Some states as well as municipalities have designated certain breeds as dangerous.
  • Some look at individual dogs to decide if the pet is a danger.
  • Still others, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, stipulate that insurers cannot cancel or deny coverage to the owner of particular breeds.
  • There are also negligence laws that make the dog owner liable if he or she was very careless in controlling their dog.

State laws pertaining dog bites, which are a combination of local and state laws, can change. See what your state’s approach has been recently with a comprehensive look at dog bite laws by state.

Teach Your Kids How to Avoid Dog Bites

If you have children, download this fun coloring and activity book provided by the California Department of Public Health. The kids will enjoy it, and learn some important tips about how to be safe around dogs.

Next Steps

Ask your homeowners insurance provider if your policy covers dog-related injuries. If it doesn’t, consider purchasing separate liability insurance for your dog. Find out more about how pet insurance works. Learn about homeowners insurance and compare coverage rates using this page with our online tool.

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