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Homeowners Insurance

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Offer Coverage For Dog Bites In California?

In California, homeowners insurance can offer coverage for a dog bite incident. Although, consistent coverage is not the case across the board. Some homeowners’ insurance policies require policy holders to opt into specific dog bite coverage. Additionally, some homeowners’ insurance policies wholly deny coverage to particular dog breeds, because of the breed’s known predisposition to aggressive behavior.
It is critical to carefully review the contractual language of your homeowners’ insurance policy to see if it does offer protection for dog bites. The purchase of umbrella coverage can offer a way to enhance your existing insurance policy to extend coverage to dog bites.
This article will summarize the various dog bite coverage options offered by homeowners insurance.

1. Does homeowners insurance offer coverage dog bites?

Homeowners insurance can offer coverage for dog bites. Not all homeowners’ insurance policies are created the same. Many homeowners insurance policy necessitate and require for the homeowner to consciously enroll in dog bite liability coverage, in the form an insurance rider. When the homeowner opts into additional coverage, this often prompts an increase in the cost of the insurance premium. It is essential to check the fine print of every insurance policy to examine the details of the liability coverage.

Homeowners’ insurance typically covers property damage, but can also encompass liability insurance. This type of insurance is facilitated by a third party insurance which protects a homeowner from incurring a lawsuit should someone be hurt on his or her property.

A common form of injury on a homeowners premises is a dog bite. In 2017, dog bite incidents accounted for nearly 1/3 of all homeowner liability claims filed amounting to almost $700 million in claim payments.

1.1 Where in my policy can I get additional details about dog bite coverage?

The homeowners’ insurance policy will offer details regarding dog bite coverage under the provisions dictating personal liability. The section will also detail policy maximums and limits which establish the dollar amount of coverage you are eligible for as a policy holder.
If your homeowners insurance refuses to cover dog bite claims, when you are eligible for some coverage, this can result in the filing of a bad faith insurance claim, as the company refusing to execute your expectations of liability coverage.

1.2 What if the dog bite transpired off the homeowner’s property?

Homeowners’ insurance typically encompasses coverage for dog bites that transpire off the property. The caveat being that the dog bite was the result of negligence on the homeowners’ part. Specific coverage details may be better obtained after speaking with an insurance agent.
Typically, most homeowners’ insurance policies will provide liability coverage for off-property dog bites because they are considered a threat to your home. Often, dog bite victims are seeks compensation for their injuries and damages incurred. The compensation for their injuries can be retrieved from the equity value sourced from your home; subsequently homeowners’ liability insurance coverage protects against this action.

1.3 Does renter’s insurance offer any form of liability coverage for dog bites?

The provisions of renters’ insurance parallels that of homeowners’ insurance in that it can also offer liability coverage for dog bites. Similarly, renters’ insurance companies require to policyholder to specifically opt in to coverage. Unlike homeowners’ insurance, renters’ insurance may have substantially lower policy limits. This can be remedied by purchasing additional renters’ insurance policies.

1.4 Will my insurance be sufficient to cover the dog bite?

Homeowners insurance can only cover the damages associated with a dog bite up to the policy maximum or limit. Depending on the insurance type, you may have a variable limit although conventionally, policy limits cap at $100,000. In the case of severe dog bites which result in morbid injury or fatality, damages can surpass this policy limit. In the case that damages exceed the insurance amount, you as a dog owner will be held personally liable for the injuries incurred by the dog bite victim.

Market research on insurance premium suggests that the average cost of a dog bite expense ranged anywhere from $35,000-$40,000 in 2018. Bites that are more serious in severity and injury can easily exceed this cost with mounting medical bills, and damages associated pain and suffering related to the dog bite injury.
It is important that dog owners are aware of their insurance liability coverage limits. Policy limits and maximums can be increased for an added premium cost. As large dogs are more inclined to cause serious dog bite injuries, it is recommended for large dog owners to increase policy limits accordingly. Small dog owners often opt into the standard dog bite liability coverage.

2. Is my insurance eligible to reject coverage for individual dog breeds?

It is within the scope of some homeowners’ insurances to refuse to provide liability coverage for certain dog breeds. These breeds are assessed far too dangerous and risky to insure because of their inherently aggressive nature. There are local jurisdictions that enforce regulations prohibiting owners from acquiring certain dog breed. It is important to check your insurance policy to see if there are any exclusions on certain dog breeds that the company is unwilling to cover.
The following dog breeds are commonly rejected for liability coverage by homeowners’ insurance companies:
• Rottweilers,
• Presa Canarios,
• Pit bulls
• Mastiffs,
• Great Danes,
• Siberian huskies,
• Akitas,
• German Shepherds,
• Molossers,
• Alaskan malamutes,
• Chows, and
• Staffordshire terriers.
• Siberian huskies,
• Doberman Pinschers,

It is important to discuss the breed restricitons with your insurance agent prior to getting any of the dogs listed above. If you acquire a dog that is not eligible for dog bite liability coverage, you may find yourself financially vulnerably in the circumstance in which your dog potentially bites someone.
It is not the end of the road if your homeowners insurance rejects liability coverage for your restricted dog breed. You can shop for alternative insurance offering or you can seek out an umbrella insurance policy, which will offer comprehensive liability coverage.

2.1 What do I do if my state or city has legislation about covering certain dog breeds?

It is possible that some local jurisdictions or state have ingrained legislation about denying insurance claims for certain dog breeds. This is highly dependent on the local or regional legislation statues.
Many cities contain ordinances or legislation expressly forbidding people from owning particular dog breeds. Such ordinances often single out and discriminate against pit bulls, which a breed known for fighting and aggressive behavior displays. Living in locales with such ordinances may prevent you from identifying comprehensive dog bite insurance coverage, especially if you have a breed that is considered restricted or aggressive.
Insurance companies that may have otherwise covered your dog will not do so if you live in an area that restricts aggressive breeds. Living in this kind of locale intentionally could greatly increase you liability if your dog does bite or attack someone.
There are, however, two states that explicitly forbid insurance companies from discriminating against or singling out certain dog breeds. These two states are:
• Pennsylvania
• Michigan
If you reside in either of these states, your insurance company can deny you dog bite liability coverage based on the breed of your dog i.e. if you own a restricted breed such as a pitbull.

2.2 Which insurance companies are known to differentiate or discriminate against certain dog breeds?

There is a list of insurance companies with an established reputation of not offering coverage for certain dog breeds. Conversely, other insurance companies are more leninent with their coverage offering.
The following insurance companies have a history of differentiating or discriminating against certain dogs breeds:
• Farmers
• Geico
• Nationwide
Conversely, the following list of insurance companies are more lenient with coverage for all dogs, regardless of breed:
• State Farm
• Einhorn
All of these insurance companies are concerned with your dog’s history of aggression or history of biting and or attacking humans. The established history of a dog’s aggression is critical in states with dog bite statutes that subscribe to the one bite rule. States that adhere to strict liability enforcement can find the dog owner liable for damages even if it is the dog’s first bite or attack.

3. How would an umbrella insurance policy offer coverage for dog bites?

An umbrella insurance policy is comprised of insurance that offers exclusively liability coverage. This form of insurance policy offers liability coverage for injuries resulting from your negligence, independent of how those injuries may have occurred.

Umbrella insurance coverage can offer liability for the costs of a dog bite. Additionally, umbrella insurance coverage can have very high policy maximums and limits, often beginning at $1 million. Because of this high policy maximum, the premium costs associated with umbrella insurance policies can be very high. However, umbrella insurance coverage is worth considering as it can help you lower liability coverage on your other forms of insurance. Lowering the costs of your liability coverage with other insurance plans may help you better finance or afford an umbrella insurance policy.

4. What happens in the instance that my dog bite someone and I do not have sufficient coverage?

In the case in which you lack insurance coverage and your dog attacks and bites someone, you will be held personally liable for all the associated costs of the injuries incurred as a result of the your dog’s bite. Personal liability means that you will be held accountable to pay for the expenses associated with the dog bite victim’s out of pocket losses.

In some extenuating circumstances, dog bites can be financially devastating to the victim as well as to the dog owner. As a dog owner, you may be compelled to declare bankruptcy. In some instances, a homeowner’s association (HOA) may also be held liable for a dog bite transpires on HOA property.

If the out of pocket costs and losses associated with the dog bite are higher than the limitations of the insurance will policy, you will be held personally liable for the remainder of the costs.

Consider the following fictitious scenario: Allen has $200,000 homeowners’ insurance policy maximum and limit. His pit bull mix attacks and bites his neighbor causing $230,000 in injury damages and losses. Allen’s insurance will adhere to covering $200,000 but Allen be held to liable to cover the cost of the remaining $30,000 balance.

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