Homeowners Insurance: Liability for Pet Owners

HO3 Liability InsurancePets in the household often bring a variety of physical, mental and emotional health benefits.  In fact, pets reside in nearly 80 million homes according to the latest survey by the American Pet Products Association.  In 2014, dogs resided in over 54 million households in the U.S. Sadly, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that 4.5 million people  are bitten by dogs each year, and roughly 885,000 of those bitten require medical attention for their injuries.  According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites and other dog-related injuries account for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars costing more than $530 million.  These claims range from biting to knocking people off their feet.

Typically, legal expenses for dog bites are capped by the liability policy limits for homeowners and renters on their HO3 Homeowners Insurance policy. Once the limit has been reached, the dog owner assumes responsibility for all damage costs above that amount. Keep in mind that your policy might exclude coverage for certain breeds, for dogs that have already been involved in a dog bite incident, or for all dogs regardless of breed or history.  It’s best to check with you agent to ensure you have the appropriate coverage limits, and that any incident involving your dog will be covered.

Dog Owners’ Liability

Your liability as a pet owner may also vary by state.  In some states, dog owners are only liable for injuries their pets cause if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to bite. In others, statutes make the owners liable whether or not they knew the dog had a tendency to bite. Some states and municipalities have “breed specific” statutes that identify breeds such as pit bulls as dangerous; in others individual dogs can be designated as vicious.  Some states have laws governing the amount of liability insurance that owners of dogs classified as vicious are required to purchase.  There are also laws regarding negligence when an incident occurs if the owner fails to control the dog or was careless.

If you have any type of dog, large or small, and regardless of whether the dog is docile or of a breed with a bad reputation, check with your agent to ensure your liability limits will cover medical and legal fees should your dog injure someone inside or outside of your home. Check this quick list of statutes by state for more information, but confirm any information with your insurance agent before making any decisions regarding your HO3 Homeowners Insurance policy.