In some cases a dog bite victim doesn’t want to hold the animal’s owner accountable because they fear that the person will suffer an economic hardship. However, in many cases the animal’s owner pays nothing because insurance pays legal expenses and any judgement. Depending on the facts of the case, a legal claim from a dog bite may be paid by any or all of these sources.
Home owner’s Insurance Policies
In many instances, a dog owner’s home owner’s policy covers liabilities arising from dog bite attacks occurring on the premises. According to Insurance Information Institute data, there were over 16,000 dog bite claims in 2012. The average home owner’s policy contains up to $300,000 in liability coverage, but most insurers only cover the first incident an animal causes. Certain insurers refuse coverage on breeds such as Rottweilers and Pit Bulls.
Home owners should consider that their policies often offer reduced coverage for incidents occurring off the premises. For instance, some home owner’s policies exclude vehicle-related injuries. If someone is walking a dog and the dog bites a passer by, the incident would be covered. However, if the dog bit someone through an open car window, the incident wouldn’t be covered.
Even if a dog bite isn’t covered under a home owner’s policy, it may be covered by auto insurance. In some cases, car insurance and home owner’s policies may cover a dog bite happening in a car. When this occurs, both companies typically try to pass the blame to the other. The argument doesn’t usually involve the victim, and it is typically resolved between the insurers.
There are insurers offering coverage for pet owners. As was noted above, many insurers don’t cover second and subsequent dog bite attacks. In these cases, the owner of a repeat-offending dog has no choice but to buy coverage from a company specializing in animal insurance.
Even if a dog’s owner has no insurance, victims are still entitled to sue the person to recover damages. If a person is reluctant to bring a claim, they should consider that the responsible party isn’t the one who pays the bills. A dog bite attorney with Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas LLP can advise victims as to their legal rights and they can offer advice that is case-specific.
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