Homeowners insurance may cover legal and medical expenses if your dog bites someone, unless your policy’s liability coverage has exceptions for dogs. Some insurers may exclude your dog from your policy or hike up your rates if they deem the risk too great. Dog bite claim payouts average more than $49,000, so you should make sure you're fully protected in case the unexpected happens.
This article includes:
Dog bite liability and homeowners insurance
Homeowners insurance includes personal liability coverage, which is a protection that pays for legal and medical costs if you are sued. This is the part of your home insurance policy a dog bite would fall under. That means for your insurance to cover a dog bite, your dog must not be excluded from our personal liability coverage.
Personal liability applies if a claim or lawsuit is brought against you for bodily injury to someone else or damage to someone else's property. It's important to note that liability coverage does not cover people named on your policy, or "insureds." So, if your dog bites a family member or damages your property, homeowners insurance typically won't cover it.
We rarely see limits lower than $100,000 for personal liability coverage. However, if you own a dog, you may want to increase this limit, because if your coverage limit is reached, you may be responsible for paying the difference out of pocket. You can also consider an umbrella policy, which extends your liability protection.
Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites off your property?
Yes, as long as your dog is included in your personal liability coverage. Liability protection applies anywhere in the world, even if you're off your residential premises. That means if your dog bites someone on a walk or in the park, or your mailman, you're still covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover a dog bite lawsuit?
Yes, homeowners insurance can help pay legal and medical fees if you end up being sued after a dog bite. Coverage falls under the personal liability portion of a homeowners insurance policy, but your insurance company may not necessarily cover your dog.
Will my homeowners insurance company cover my dog?
If you want coverage for dog bites, you'll have to let your insurance company know that you have a dog. Insurance companies sometimes have rules regarding specific breeds. Others won't cover any dog, period. In at least two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, it's illegal to deny homeowners insurance coverage based on your dog's breed or exclude your pooch from your policy.
Some companies won't insure "bully breeds," which are breeds that are considered particularly dangerous, either for their bite strength or demeanor. Common restricted dog breeds are:
- German Shepherds
- Pit bulls
After a bite incident, your insurance company may raise your rates or even drop coverage for your dog. Some insurers may also give you the option to maintain coverage by taking your dog to behavior modification training. If you lose coverage for your dog, it's probably time to consider switching companies, as we don't recommend owning a dog without liability protection.
Average cost of a dog bite claim
The average cost of a dog bite claim is around $49,000, according to data that State Farm releases every year. Dog bite claim settlements are so costly because they may include several expenses, including medical bills, legal fees, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
|Year||Average cost per claim||Claims paid||Number of claims|
In fact, dog bite claims are one of the most expensive homeowners insurance claims to settle. Fire and lightning are by far the costliest, averaging more than $68,000 a claim. Dog bite claims are the second most expensive type of claim, at more than three times the cost of the average wind or hail claim, and more than eight times the average theft claim.
States with the highest dog bite claims
Dog bite claims are becoming more common and more expensive. We found that since 2014, the number of dog bite claims has risen by 9%, while the cost of dog bite claims has risen by 53%.
- The average dog bite claim costs $49,000.
- Nearly 18,000 dog bite claims were filed in 2021.
- California, Florida and Texas have the most dog bite claims.
Dog bite claims cost over $881 million in 2021. Most of those claims were filed in 10 states. California had the most dog bite claims, with 2,026 claims, followed by Florida (1,478) and Texas (1,003).
The cost of a dog bite claim varies by nearly $30,000, depending on where you live. The average dog bite claim costs $40,000 in Texas and $68,000 in New York.
No matter where you live, dog bite claims are getting more expensive. The average cost of a dog bite claim is now $49,000. That’s 53% higher than it was in 2014 ($32,000), and 155% higher than it was in 2003 ($19,000).
|State||Number of claims||Average claim cost||% change in claim costs since 2020||Cost of all claims|
|Methodology: QuoteWizard compared dog bite claim data from the Insurance Information Institute going back to 2014.|
What to do if your dog bites someone
Acting quickly and appropriately if your dog bites someone is important. Taking the proper steps after an incident not only ensures that the bite victim receives proper medical attention, but it minimizes your liability. Properly defusing the situation may reduce your chances of being involved in a liability lawsuit. Here are some of the first steps you should take if your dog bites someone.
Confine your dog: Removing your dog after a bite incident prevents further attacks and defuses the situation.
Attend to the bite victim: Administer first aid and call 911 if necessary. A bite victim should see a doctor to make sure the wound heals properly and doesn't become infected.
Exchange contact information with the bite victim: You'll want to make sure the bite victim can contact you after receiving medical attention.
Once the immediate bite incident is over, you should gather copies of your dog's medical records, including its vaccination history. This is relevant information for the treatment of the bite, and you may need it if you are sued.
Dog bite laws
Local laws vary depending on where you live, but there are three general types of legislation governing liability for dog owners.
|Regulation type||When is the dog owner liable?|
|Dog bite statute||Always|
|One-bite rule||When the owner knew the dog was dangerous|
|Negligence laws||Only if the dog owner was careless|
Because state laws differ regarding liability for dog bites, we recommend looking up the laws in your state. Knowing your state's laws can also inform how much liability protection you need. For example, if your state uses negligence laws, where you're liable only if you're found negligent, you may not need as much liability coverage as if your state has a dog bite statute where the dog owner is always liable.
If you own a dog, you should double-check that your insurance company includes it in your personal liability protection. If your dog is included, your homeowners insurance can cover a dog bite, but if it's excluded, you won't have coverage. You have a few options if your insurance doesn't cover your dog, like looking for an insurer that insures dogs regardless of breed or proving your dog's good behavior.
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