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Should You Buy Dog Bite Insurance?

On behalf of Terence Gross of Gross & Schuster, P.A. posted in Dog Bites on Monday, July 12, 2010.

A recent strategy being used by advocacy groups working to reduce injures from dog bites is a push to require at least some dog owners to buy dog bite insurance. Although neither Pensacola nor Florida is currently considering that, you may still be wondering whether buying dog bite insurance could protect you financially.

Dog bites can cause serious injuries to children and adults alike. According to some estimates, nearly 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. every year. Of those, approximately 800,000 need immediate medical treatment. Emergency room reports estimate that around 1,087 people are brought in for dog bite injuries every single day.

With statistics like that, you can see why it’s essential for every dog owner to carry insurance that covers dog bite claims. The vast majority of people whose dogs bite someone probably never expected it to happen. Even negligent dog owners who should have known their dogs were aggressive are often caught off-guard when a dog bites occurs.

Unfortunately, even if the dog’s owner feels honor-bound to pay reasonable medical expenses for the injury, many people wouldn’t be able to afford to do so without insurance.

Most Homeowners Insurance Policies Cover Dog Bites

If you have a dog — even a friendly dog — it’s in your best interest to protect yourself from a premises liability claim if your dog unexpectedly bites someone. Luckily, most insurers offer dog bite coverage as part of a homeowners insurance policy.

Here are a few important things to remember:

  • Dog bite coverage may be optional. Although most insurers offer dog bite coverage, it’s not necessarily automatic. Be sure and check with your insurance agent or company to find out if you have dog bite coverage as part of your policy.
  • You may not be covered if you haven’t notified your insurance company of what dogs you have. It’s pretty simple: If you want something to be covered by insurance, you generally have to tell your insurer that you have it.

    When people adopt new dogs after buying their homeowners insurance policies, they often forget to notify their insurance companies. Tell your agent or company what dogs you have — including any long-term visitors — and keep that information up to date.

  • Your rates or coverage may depend on your dog’s breed. Some insurance companies do charge more to cover so-called dangerous dog breeds, or deny coverage altogether. However, if you own a breed of dog singled out for different treatment by your insurer, don’t lie. If the company finds out you submitted false information, they will probably deny any claims that are made.

The real target of a compulsory dog bite insurance law would probably be irresponsible or chronically negligent dog owners — people with a history of mistreating their dogs, or those engaged in illegal activities like dog fighting.

Check with your homeowners insurer and make sure you’re covered. If your insurance doesn’t cover dog bites or you would like to shop around, however, private dog bite insurance is available.

Related Resource:

“Dog Bite Insurance” (PetWellBeing Blog, March 17, 2010)

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