Nobody wants to think that their four legged friend could be capable of causing harm to someone else, but it happens more often than you think. Fortunately, you can prevent dog bites and protect yourself financially should it happen.
The Centers for Disease Control reports almost 900,000 dog bites in the U.S. require medical care each year. Almost 40 percent of victims are children and two-thirds of the youngest are bitten on the neck or head.
The average dog bite claim is over $37,000, but in states like Arizona they can be as much as $57,000. The cost of claims continues increased 16% in 2015 and claims have almost doubled since 2003.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, juries tend to award higher settlements to plaintiffs today, because of increased medical costs. Some dog bites cause deaths, criminal penalties, and very stiff fines. A 2001 case in San Francisco sent a husband and wife to prison for involuntary manslaughter after their dogs killed a woman. They were also ordered to pay restitution to the family. Clearly, adequate liability coverage is more important than ever.
It’s important you understand your responsibilities as a pet owner. You need to handle your pet properly to prevent bites. Some towns also have “breed specific” statutes that identify particular dogs as dangerous. If your pet is on the list of dangerous breeds, they may insist you purchase a specified amount of liability insurance or sign a waiver limiting liability. Municipalities may also enact bylaws that insist on similar precautions.
One-third of all home insurance claims are for dog bites and these claims cost insurance companies $571.3 million last year. As a result, many insurance companies have very specific limitations on liability coverage.
Some require a Canine Good Citizen certificate. This program stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. It makes sense to train your dog to prevent bites. If they bite someone, they’re an increased risk and you’ll pay more for your Rhode Island homeowner’s insurance premium, or the insurance company may decide to non-renew your policy.
Your homeowner’s insurance policy has a maximum it will pay if you file a dog bite claim. Any claims that exceed that limit are your responsibility. Don’t assume just because you have insurance you’re protected – talk to your agent to make sure that you have adequate coverage limits. You may also want to ask about an umbrella insurance policy.