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Be Careful to Avoid Dog-Bite Claims
If you have to file a dog-bite claim against your homeowners insurance, it is very likely that you will end up looking for a new insurer. Dog-bite claims represent a significant loss to insurers, so they take the claims very seriously.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites represented one-third of all homeowners liability claims in 2009, when they cost insurers $412 million. The average payout in a dog-bite claim in 2009 was $24,840, according to the III. And the problem is growing: The cost of dog-bite claims is up 30 percent since 2003. The III attributes most of the increase to higher medical costs and court awards.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, dogs bite almost 5 million people every year. Some 900,000 need medical care, and about half of those are children. More than half of dog bites occur on the property of the dog owner.
Your legal liability if your dog bites someone depends on the state in which you live. Illinois, for example, has strict liability: If your dog bites someone, you are liable. Some states don’t hold the owner liable the first time the dog bites someone. In these cases, the dog needs to show a propensity to bite. And in some states, the owner is liable only if the biting is related to the owner’s negligence. You can be liable if a visiting dog bites someone on your property, even if you don’t own the dog.
If your dog bites someone and you are liable, the claim is handled under your homeowners liability insurance. And often it results in nonrenewal of your homeowners coverage. If the same insurer has your umbrella liability coverage, you might not get a renewal on that policy either. As far as dog bites are concerned, most insurers are not at all forgiving.
In fact, some insurers won’t even write a homeowners policy in the first place if you own a certain breed of dog. This includes pit bulls, rottweilers, Dobermans and other breeds with a reputation for aggressiveness.
If you are a dog owner, or if you have canine visitors, you should take precautions. Even if your dog is friendly and never has shown any signs of aggression, it is a good idea to keep an eye on it when visitors or strangers are around.
Keep your dog away from small children and people who are afraid of dogs. Kids or people who are uncomfortable around dogs might act in a way that startles the dog or makes it feel threatened, and that can cause the dog to act unpredictably. Be especially careful if your dog is sleeping, eating, tired or not feeling well. And remember that some dogs, like some people, tend to get grumpier as they get older.
We would be happy to talk to you about your homeowners liability coverage, or any other insurance needs. Just give us a call at 847-572-0800 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.