The majority of American homes are shared with at least one pet, most commonly dogs. Attentive owners spend time training their dogs to display basic manners and to curb aggression, but, just as with humans, any animal can attack if provoked. This possibility increases pet owners’ liability risk in the eyes of insurance providers. To protect your finances, it’s important to understand what that risk means in the event that your dog does bites a visitor.
What exactly can you be held liable for? If your dog attacks a burglar in defense, you are typically not held liable for its actions. However, if your dog attacks under circumstances of unreasonable carelessness, such as not restraining a dog that you know has violent tendencies, you can easily be found liable. In addition, states have different rules surrounding the matter. Approximately a third of states rule that a dog owner is “strictly liable” for any acts of dog aggression under any circumstance (although, this typically excludes attacking a burglar). The rest of the country maintains a “one free bite” mentality, ruling that dog owners are only liable if they know that their dog is prone to violent behavior (which excuses first time offenses due to provocation).
Basic homeowners and renters insurance provides anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 of liability coverage, depending on the details of your policy. Many of these policies will cover dog bite liability, up to policy limits; however, after such an incident, your insurance provider can increase your premium and/or exclude your dog from coverage to offset the increased risk.
Dog bites were the primary reason for over a third of all homeowners liability claims in 2012, with an average payout of $29,752 per bite. Why so high? Benefits must cover medical expenses, lost wages, legal fees and property damage associated with the bite(s).
You know your dog best. If your furry friend gets nervous or agitated when guests come over, a simple solution would be to restrain Fido to an isolated room for the duration of the visit so there’s no danger of biting. This tactic significantly reduces your risk, which saves you money—even if you use the savings to spoil your dog!
We’ll help you protect your home and your pets. Call ECI Insurance Agency, Inc. at (405) 373-2977 for more information on Oklahoma City homeowner insurance.