Does Your Home Insurance Policy Cover All Dog Bites?

All dogs can bite, but some are more likely to lash out. And when they do, the victim can sustain serious or even fatal injuries. In a recent string of dog attacks in Chico, CA, a pack of pit bulls or pit bull mixes chased and attacked residents, leaving at least one man with significant injuries to his arms and leg. Redding, Orland, and Magalia are other communities near Sacramento, CA, that have seen dog attacks in recent years (Read the post on the attacks here).

Dog Bite Statistics Show Pit Bulls Pose Greatest Danger

Those are not isolated incidents but reflected in dog bite statistics across the country. To cite a few examples:

  • Human Fatalities: In 2019, 48 dog attacks tragically resulted in human deaths. The compilation of data from also showed that among these victims, there were 13 children, three victims aged 10 to 18, and 32 adult victims. Notably, the state of California witnessed the highest number of dog bite-related fatalities, with a total of nine deaths.
  • Mail Carriers at Risk: Few professions are at higher risk of dog bites than mail carriers, and California takes the lead in this unsettling category. According to data from the U.S. Postal Service, California had 675 dog bites on mail carriers in a single year. The Postal Service released the 2022 figures as part of its annual National Dog Bite Awareness Week, themed “Even good dogs have bad days.”
  • National Epidemic: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an estimated 4.5 million people in the United States experience dog bites every year. These incidents range from minor nips to severe attacks requiring medical attention.
  • Pit Bulls Top the List: Statistically, pit bulls may be the most dangerous dog breed, responsible for 22.5% of dog bite incidents across all studies, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Mixed breed dogs follow closely behind at 21.2%, while German Shepherds occupy the third position with 17.8% of bite incidents. When it comes to fatal attacks, reports pit bulls accounted for 69% of the 48 deaths in 2019 despite being 8% of the total U.S. dog population.

Cost of a Dog Bite Claim

If you’re a dog owner, these facts can have implications. Dog bites tend to be costly for both the victim and the dog owner. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite claim costs around $44,760 in the United States. Dog bite liability claims can be expensive for several reasons.

  1. First, medical bills can be high, especially if the bite requires reconstructive surgery or other treatment.
  2. Second, victims of dog bites may also suffer from emotional distress and lost wages.
  3. Third, dog owners may be held liable for property damage, such as damage to clothing or furniture.
  4. Finally, a dog owner may be required to put a dangerous dog “put down.”

Banned Dogs: The Breeds Many Policies Will Not Cover

As a result, of that noted above, many homeowners insurance companies have lists of banned dogs, or breeds that they will not insure. Others take dog bite claims on a case-by-case basis. Forbes points out these lists are often hidden from consumers in filings made by insurers to state insurance departments. In an analysis of 42 homeowners insurance companies, Forbes found all of them excluded three breeds from coverage: Doberman Pinscher, Pit bull, and Rottweiler.

Forbes Analysis: Top 10 Banned Breeds by Homeowners Insurance Companies

Breed % of banned lists with breed
Doberman Pinscher 100%
Pit bull 100%
Rottweiler 100%
Chow Chow 95%
Wolf dogs and wolf hybrids 93%
Presa Canario (Canary dog) 86%
Akita 79%
German Shepherd 45%
Husky 38%
Mastiff 29%

Understanding Your Insurance Coverage

As a dog owner, you can take precautions to protect yourself to the greatest extent possible, should your dog unexpectedly injure someone. Keep in mind factors such as:

  • Policy Review: Review your home insurance policy. Does it cover dogs normally considered vicious, like pit bulls and Rottweilers? Does it say anything about dogs in general?
  • Breed Restrictions: As discussed, insurance companies often impose breed-specific restrictions due to perceived risks. Breeds like pit bulls may require specialized coverage.
  • Policy Limits: Understand the liability limits in your policy. Ensure your coverage adequately protects your assets in case of a significant claim.
  • Umbrella Insurance: Consider purchasing umbrella insurance to enhance your liability protection. This provides an extra layer of coverage when your primary policy limits are exceeded.
  • Safety Measures: Mitigate risks by implementing safety measures like secure fencing, leash usage, and supervision during interactions with guests or other animals.
  • Disclosure: Always be honest with your insurer about your dog. Failing to disclose could result in denied claims or policy cancellation.

A Real-World Dog Bite Case

A recent case shows the significance of having coverage as the defendant’s homeowner’s insurance provider agreed to pay the policy limit of $300,000 to the victim. The plaintiff was walking in a public park when she was attacked by a Rottweiler that the defendant’s young son, who was holding the leash, had failed to constrain. The unprovoked attack left her with bite injuries to her arms and the top of her head. Penney & Associates represented the plaintiff.

Final word

In conclusion, dog ownership comes with responsibilities, including financial preparedness for potential liabilities. Review your policy, consider breed-specific restrictions, and assess your coverage limits to ensure you’re adequately protected. Responsible dog ownership and a well-considered insurance strategy can provide peace of mind in case of an unfortunate incident.

Contact Fred Penney and Penney & Associates

Have you or a loved one been a victim of personal injury, like a dog bite incident? Your rights and well-being matter. You need the right legal team by your side. Penney & Associates is here to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.

Read more:
California Dog Bite Law: What Happens If Your Dog Bites Someone?
Who May be Held Legally Liable for Emotional Support Animal Attacks?
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California: What to Keep in Mind

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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