People love their dogs! But—-not all dogs are created equal–at least in the eyes of Homeowners Insurance Companies. Your liability for dog bites and attacks are covered under the liability portion of your Homeowners or Renters Insurance Policy. In fact, that is one of the most important pieces of information an experienced personal injury attorney will acquire if you are the victim of a dog bite—is there insurance, and if so, how much?
The comparative damages for dog bite claims eclipse other types of liability claims made on Homeowner policies. Since liability for dog bites is “strict” in California and most other states, it would be financially devastating if your dog was not covered under your policy. Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg urges his dog owner clients to review their insurance policies to make certain they are covered if a dog bite occurs. Even the best behaved dogs can inadvertently bite—so, this is important for all dog owners! The breeds excluded vary from company to company—so, read your policy!
The most prevalent “biting” breeds are 1) pit bull, 2) Rottweiler, and 3) German Shepard. However, that is not necessarily what the insurers are looking at to determine whether a certain breed is excluded. Even though German Shepards are involved in the most bites, the injuries are usually less than the injuries sustained from a Pit Bull bite. In addition, German Shepards are far more numerous in the United States. So, it may be impractical for an insurer to exclude that breed and lose policy holders.
Here is the language from my personal policy:
WHAT LOSSES ARE NOT COVERED
Bodily injury or property damage arising out of the ownership of, custody of, or care for the following pure or mixed breed or pure or mixed type of dogs:
- Any pit bull type of dog (which may be known as American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, Dogo Argentino or Alpha Blue Bulldog);
- Akita (which may be known as a Japanese Akita or an Akita Inu); or
- Canary Dog (which may be known as a Presa Canario or a Perro de Presa Canario).
As you can see from the above list, the above breeds are known for inflicting serious injuries of which a Homeowners insurer wants no part. In my practice, I have seen much longer lists of excluded breeds, including German Shepards. In fact, some insurers do not exclude any particular breeds. However, they may exclude after a single reported claim or they may exclude based on the insurance application requesting information whether your dog has ever bitten regardless of whether a claim was ever made. Finally, you should be aware that there are “specialty” insurers cropping up which will insure these biting breeds—-but, for a price. Those insurers can be found through independent insurance agencies.
It is imperative that responsible dog owners at least know in advance whether they are covered if their dog is involved in a bite. Please, please, please— Read your Homeowners and Renters policies if you have a dog! If you or a loved one is bit by a dog, consult with an attorney with insurance coverage expertise.