How To Protect Yourself and Your Dog From Lawsuits
If you've ever been bitten by a dog, you'll know that a bite can be extremely painful. But the pain can go much deeper than you might think -- right down to the bottom of your pocket!
There are about 90 million dogs, owned as pets in the US and, on average, every year, one in 20 of them bites a victim -- mostly in or around the owner's home.
What's worrying for owners -- and insurers -- is that the cost of paying for treatment of victims, lawsuits and other expenses is rocketing and has just passed an average of $40,000 per claim here in California, almost double what it was 15 years ago.
Without dog bite insurance, that's a big item that could drain your savings and financial reserves. It could even land you in debt.
But if you have the right protection, it may not cost you a cent.
However, that may depend on the breed of dog, any past history of claims and even where you live.
But how do you get protected? And are all types of breeds covered?
Let's take a closer look at some of the key questions owners often ask…
Does my Homeowner Insurance or Rental Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
In the main, yes -- through the general liability section of your policy. Insurers pay out close to $700 million on around 18,500 dog bite claims every year.
The really bad news is that California has the largest number of claims of any state in the US.
But some breeds are difficult or impossible to insure. Some of these may significantly increase your homeowners insurance or renters insurance premium.
Different insurers may exclude or require supplemental insurance for different breeds Others may be prepared to accept higher risk breeds if the dog has had formal training and you have evidence of this.
On the other hand, some companies may not even want to know the breed you're insuring.
One thing is for sure: If you file a claim, this will almost certainly push up the cost of your future coverage. Your insurer may even refuse to renew next time.
So, it's important to work with an experienced insurance agent when you're looking for the best and the right protection for you and your pet. Contact Aldrich Taylor Insurance for your free home insurance quote at 818-841-2940.
Which Breeds are Troublesome to Insure?
As we said, insurers may differ in the breeds they're prepared to insure. That's not always because of the bite risk. Some dogs are just so darned big they can easily and often unintentionally cause an injury or damage.
But the dog breeds that require supplemental insurance or may be excluded from homeowners and renters policies include: Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, American Bulldogs, Belgian Malinois, Beaucerons, Chow Chows, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Pitbulls, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies and Staffordshire Terriers.
What If You're a Landlord and Your Renter's Dog Bites Someone?
Renters are particularly vulnerable to dog bite claims for which they have no protection.
Only about one in three have renters insurance, even though it only costs a few dollars a month.
There have been instances where landlords have been sued by victims when their dog-owning renters don't have coverage.
If you're a landlord, you should discuss this issue with your insurance agent.
How Much Coverage Does Liability Insurance Provide?
You will likely be covered for legal expenses and settlement costs up to the liability limit of your home insurance policy.
Usually, this is between $100,000 to $250,000 but it's possible to increase your liability limits for a higher premium or through an umbrella insurance policy.
If the treatment or lawsuit costs exceed these limits, you have to meet these out of your own pocket -- and, although fairly rare, there have been cases where medical costs have driven the final number well above these limits.
What About Other Injuries My Dog May Cause?
If your homeowners or renters liability coverage includes your dog, this coverage usually extends to any injury it may cause -- such as knocking a child or bicyclist over.
The same applies to any property damage your animal causes.
California's Dog Bite Laws
Here in Southern California, we have some of the strictest dog bite laws. We're subject to the state's Civil Code 3342, which, with a couple of exceptions, holds you responsible for any injuries or damage your dog causes, whether at home or out and about.
So, it's important to check that your homeowners insurance or renters insurance coverage extends to incidents away from home.
The law applies even if you did nothing wrong and tried to intercept or control the dog And, unlike in some states, owners can’t claim they didn't know their dog had the potential to bite (known as the "one bite rule").
In one California incident, an owner whose dog knocked over a postal worker had to go through two years of lawsuit proceedings. She didn't have umbrella insurance, and so faced costs considerably above her liability coverage limits.
And after all that, her animal was excluded from her home insurance policy and she had to pay $1,500 a year for additional, separate insurance.
The exceptions can be when the dog bites a trespasser, if the victim intentionally provoked the animal or if they were otherwise careless. But even these may be subject to legal proceedings that can result in costs, even if a court decision is subsequently in your favor.
Veterinary professionals also are unlikely to be able to make a liability claim against you because they're considered to be aware of the risk of a bite yet have decided to work with risky dogs anyway.
Why You Should Consult An Aldrich Taylor Insurance Professional
There's a lot to know both about the penalties owners face if their dog bites and the steps you can take to be a responsible owner.
And, with individual rules for California and with the differing attitudes insurers take towards dog bite liability coverage, it makes sound sense to speak to your insurance agent to get properly protected.
In Southern California, Aldrich Taylor Insurance has the expertise and experience to find the protection you need at the right price. Please contact us at 818-841-2940 if you have questions or need to get protected.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice regarding dog bites and other damage. It's for information purposes only. You should consult a legal professional if you need advice.