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Things You Can Be Sued For: Your Dog

McGruff says, “Take a bite out of crime”, but McGruff’s partners in crime are taking a good bite out of insurance companies.  According to the Insurance Information Institute (aka III) the average dog bite claim was $37,214 in 2015.  That is up from $19,200 in 2003.

A homeowners or renters insurance policy is designed to protect the policyholder from lawsuits by others. Dog claims can run the gambit from dog bites to knocking people over to destroying property of others.

From what we are seeing in the past few years, more and more insurance companies who protect homeowners or renters are seeing an increase in dog related claims.

The III article cites a few factors contributing to this increase of costs to dog related claims. They are rising medical costs and the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards to plaintiffs.

If you are shopping for a homeowners or renters insurance policy you are going to be asked a question about pet ownership. Chances are if you own a dog that is one of the following breeds your application will be closely scrutinized:

Pit bulls & Staffordshire Terriers

  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Rottweiler’s
  • German Shepherds
  • Chows
  • Great Danes
  • Presa Canrios
  • Akitas
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Wolf-hybrids

Some companies may say that if you own one of these dogs they may not offer you insurance coverage. Every insurance carrier is different.  For example some insurance carriers are okay with German Shepherds.  No two insurance companies are the same.

Some insurance companies have responded by removing coverage for any physical contact with a canine. If you have a homeowners or renter’s insurance policy read through the exclusion carefully.  You may find the exclusion will remove coverage for any kind of dog related issue from biting to knocking people over to damaging property of others.  In addition to this they may even exclude coverage for dogs that you do now own but are temporarily caring for.. 

If you own a dog the III has some suggestions on how to reduce the chances of your dog biting someone:

Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable dog breeds for your household and neighborhood.

  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler. A dog with a history of aggression is inappropriate in a household with children.
  • Keep the family dog secured if a stranger comes to your door.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful of or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
  • Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other animals and people.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
  • Be cautious when exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its reaction.
  • Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
  • Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists or responsible breeders if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.

If you are a dog owner and you want to know more about how to properly cover yourself from dog bite claims drop us a line. We would love to talk to you more about it.

Scott Harrigan

About Scott Harrigan

Scott started his career in insurance in 1988 and joined Rue Insurance in 2004 as a Marketing Specialist focusing on creating effective risk financing and risk transfer programs for companies and non-profit organizations. In addition to this he is a member of the Rue Insurance educational team that provides ongoing professional development in critical insurance concepts and programs to Rue employees. About Scott | More Posts by Scott