Dogs are a source of great joy for most pet owners, but they also come with a unique set of financial responsibilities. For example, if your dog bites someone or hurts them in any other way, you may have to pay for the injured person’s medical bills, which can get expensive. If you live in an apartment or other rental unit, your renters insurance may help, but not always. Here’s what you need to know about how renters insurance covers dog bites.

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How does renters insurance cover dog bites?

Renters insurance only covers dog bites if your policy does not have exclusions or limitations for injuries caused by your pet.

This can get confusing, because the policies vary by insurance company and state. For example:

  • Some renters insurance companies don’t cover injuries caused by a dog with a bite history.
  • Some companies won’t cover injuries caused by dog breeds they consider dangerous, such as pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids. The specifics vary by company. Some companies, including State Farm and USAA, don’t ask about your dog’s breed.
  • Other companies place sublimits on dog bites. Your policy may provide up to $100,000 in coverage for injuries or damage you cause, but the coverage for injuries or damage your pet causes may be capped at $25,000.
  • Some states, including Georgia, require the liability protections in renters insurance companies to cover injuries your dog causes.
  • Some companies may charge a higher rate if your dog has a bite history or falls on their “dangerous breeds” list.

When your dog is not excluded, the liability coverage in your renters insurance typically covers medical bills for a person your dog injures at your home or out in public, provided the injured person does not live with you.

If the injured person provoked the dog before the bite, you may not be responsible for the injured person’s medical bills.

It’s best to check your insurance policy for possible pet exclusions or limitations if you have a dog or are considering getting one. Or ask your agent.

If you discover that you need new renters insurance, make sure to compare quotes from multiple companies when you shop.

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What do renters insurance companies know about my dog?

Most renters insurance companies will ask if you have dogs in your home when you fill out your quote request or application. Some companies may also ask about your dog’s breed and/or whether it has a bite industry.

If you have filed a prior insurance claim for a dog bite in the past three to five years, the incident is likely to be noted in the database that most insurance companies use to check your insurance history.

If you do have a prior dog bite in your insurance history or your dog is on the company’s list of banned breeds, the insurance company may reject your application. Or it may ask you to sign a dog bite waiver, which absolves it from having to cover injuries your dog causes.

It’s never a good idea to lie to your insurance company about having a dog, its breed or its bite history. Doing so can be construed as a misrepresentation, which can cause problems down the line with a potential claim.

How does dog bite liability insurance work?

Dog bite liability insurance, sold separately from renters insurance, is specialized coverage that generally covers injuries or property damage your pet causes to someone who doesn’t live with you.

Often promoted as pet liability insurance, dog bite liability insurance may be a good alternative if your renters insurance excludes your dog.

However, it’s important to know that pet liability insurance is typically offered as surplus and excess (S&E) insurance, which comes with fewer consumer protections than standard insurance.

Most notably, unlike most renters, car, home and life insurance companies, S&E insurance companies typically don’t belong to state guaranty associations, which cover claims for insurance companies that go bankrupt.

If you file a claim with a pet liability company that goes out of business, your state’s guaranty association is not likely to cover your payment. This is why it’s particularly important to choose a pet liability company with a strong financial strength rating, such as A or better from AM Best.

Does pet insurance cover dog bites?

Pet insurance generally covers veterinary care for your dog, but not bites or injuries your dog may cause.

Pet insurance is akin to health insurance for your dog. It typically covers routine checkups, treatment for an illness or injury, and emergency veterinary treatment. When you purchase renters insurance, you may also be offered pet insurance, but each is a separate product, and both are different from pet liability insurance.

What is the average hospital bill for a dog bite?

The average hospital bills for dog bites range from $3,200 for emergency department visits to $53,000 for hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

When you factor in the different types of injuries that may result from interactions with a dog, the average cost of dog-related insurance claims is about $50,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. In addition to bites, this includes the cost of treating injuries that result from dogs knocking down children, cyclists or other people.

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