Action Guide: Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Question: What if we have a small mixed-breed dog that sometimes nips at people. He’s never really bitten anyone quite hard enough to break the skin. But, what if a true bite occurs? We’re concerned about our liability. We wonder if our homeowner’s insurance policy will protect us, then.
Answer: In an average year, dog bites will account for about 1/3 of all homeowner’s liability claims. So, in most cases, the homeowner’s insurance policy will cover a dog bite. Keep in mind, plenty of insurance carriers currently refuse to write policies for owners of what they consider to be aggressive breeds. Examples of some excluded breeds include: pit bulls, German shepherds, and Rottweilers. There can be other excluded breeds. Contact your local independent insurance agent for a more extensive list.
But, aren’t the insurance carrier companies being a little mean and unforgiving? Not really. It’s just good business and good sense. They’re worried about the chance of your dog hurting someone, and they don’t want you, or themselves, to be party to an injury lawsuit.
When an insurance carrier writes a policy for someone, they are opening themselves up to liability, too. Medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages can add up quickly. Many of the prohibited dog breeds can cause significant property damage to a home, but health and safety are where the insurance company’s main concern lies.
Not sure if your dog breed is prohibited? Check with your insurance agent. Some insurance companies may still write a policy for homeowners with aggressive dog breeds, but the premiums will be more expensive.
Another thing to keep in mind, while your homeowner’s policy will cover most non-aggressive dogs, cats, and other common household pets, exotic pets are usually excluded. For example, suppose you have a pet lion or some variety of venomous snake, you may still find homeowners’ insurance to cover the unique liability such a pet creates, but it can be very expensive.
Just remember, if you have questions or concerns, contact your local independent insurance agent. If you have a dog that is known to bite, consider hiring a professional trainer to help curtail the dog’s aggressive behavior. But, be smart, have the coverage you need in case a serious dog bite does indeed occur.
Look at these national statistics:
Dog bite claims are more common and far more costly than you might think. In 2019, there were 17,866 dog bite claims in the U.S., totaling $802 million in total claim value, up $129 million from 2018.
Which states have the highest and lowest annual dog bite claims, according to dog bite claim data?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Insurance Information Institute (III), and State Farm, via 2019 stats, the state with the highest average annual dog bite claim was New York. #1 is New York with an average cost per claim of $55,800.00. New York’s total claims were 893 with total claim payouts of $49,830,000.00.
The lowest average annual dog bite claim was Ohio with an average cost per claim of $31,779.36. Ohio’s total claims were 764 and a total claim payout of $24,280,000.00.
What about Texas?
We are based in Texas, so we were curious to see how Texas ranked. Texas came in more than halfway down the list at #34. In Texas, the average cost per claim was $40,853.70. And, total claims were at 937 with total claim payout of $38,280,000.00. If counting only the total number of claims, Texas would be ranked third in that single category.
Who ranks top and bottom?
As for the total number of homeowners insurance dog bite claims, there were only two states that numbered over 1,000. That was California at 2,396 total claims, and Florida with 1,268 total claims. And, which state had the lowest number of dog bite claims? That would be Alaska at 31.
There were four other states that almost ranked as low as Alaska for annual dog bite claims. Curiously, all these other low-ranking states are also northerly states: Vermont claims: 34, North Dakota claims: 35, Wyoming claims: 37, South Dakota claims: 43.
As we’ve learned, dog bites will account for about 1/3 of all homeowner’s liability claims, in an average year. And, your dog’s breed can determine your cost for homeowners insurance. Interestingly enough, our two most popular coastal “sunshine” states have the highest number of dog bite claims. And, the lowest dog bite claims come from our most northern state. Not sure if your dog breed is excluded? To find out, call your local independent insurance agent at (806) 798-7800, Hettler Insurance Agency in Lubbock, Texas.