As dog bite lawyers, we get a lot of questions from dog owners regarding their homeowner’s insurance policies. Some of these question stem from rumors on the internet, personal dog bite stories, and strangely worded insurance policies. Here’s a quick course in homeowners insurance as it relates to dog bite liability.
Beware of Dog Signs
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is whether or not “Beware of Dog” signs are a way for an insurance company to deny coverage if someone is bitten. Essentially, the rumor going around is that an insurance company will say that you were aware your dog was dangerous, therefore, you aren’t covered. The short answer is no, it’s just a myth.
A sign actually protects you in certain circumstances: namely, trespassers. By putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign, you are putting passersby on notice. It’s similar to a construction sign warning of an open pot hole. If a person decides to trespass even after reading the sign, we’d call that assumption of risk and the homeowner may not be held entirely responsible.
The sign won’t absolve you of responsibility when it comes to guests. If you’re inviting people into your home, and your dog bites them, then you are liable. Presuming that your dog is covered in your insurance policy, your homeowners insurance will help you with the associated costs… which leads us to our next point:
Not All Insurance Policies Cover Pet-Related Injuries
This heading speaks for itself. In the past, homeowner’s insurance would cover injuries or other damages caused by the homeowner’s pet. Maybe a guest in your house is bitten, or even knocked over by your dog. The homeowner’s insurance had it covered.
These days, it’s important to read your insurance policy. Sometimes a policy will exclude injuries caused by dogs. That’s rare… Mostly we see policies excluding certain breeds of dog.
Some of the most commonly blacklisted dog breeds include;
- Pitt Bull Terriers;
- German Shepherds;
- Stattfordshire Terriers;
- Chow Chows;
- Doberman Pinschers;
- Great Danes;
- Cane Corsos;
- And Siberian Huskies
Your homeowner’s policy will clearly state which breeds, if any, are excluded from their coverage. It’s important to remember that “prohibited breeds” doesn’t mean pure-bred dogs only. If your mixed-breed dog has any genetic relationship to one of the blacklisted breeds, damage caused by the dog may not be covered.
If you are adopting a dog from an animal shelter, it’s likely that your dog will be a mixed breed. If you’re planning on doing so, be aware that the dog may have DNA of a prohibited breed. Take a few minutes to review your policy, contact your agent, and confirm (in writing) that your new dog will be covered in the event of an incident.
Unsure About Your Policy?
Talk to someone! It’s always a good idea to talk to your insurance agent if you’re planning on adding a new pet to your family. While you certainly don’t expect a dog bite to happen, it’s always best to be prepared.