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Do homeowners' insurance cover dog bite claims?

Coverage for dog bite claims generally comes from the liability section of your Ohio homeowners, apartments or tenants. Liability insurance covers bodily injuries and property damage to others. The insurance would pay up to the shown limit.

However, homeowners' insurance is not always as black and white as we would like. It is really possible that dog bites can NOT be covered. And not covered means that you have to pay out of pocket and NOT the insurance company. YIKES!

Let's look at some of the most common reasons when claims for dog bites should not be covered and we end with a common example of claims for covered dog bites and what measures the insurance company can take. We cover both NEW policies and existing policies.

New insurances

When homeowners' insurance does not cover dog bites ̵
1; your dog is on the limited list

If you apply for a new homeowners insurance, many insurance companies will not insure a home if there are dogs on the limited one the list. Here are some common dogs on the list:

  • Akita
  • Pit bull
  • Chow
  • Presa Canario
  • Rottweiler
  • Shar-pei
  • Wolf Hybrid

I'm not here to discuss whether this is discrimination or not that the "Fluffy pit bull" is actually the cutest dog on the planet. There are always exceptions. The only reason these breeds are restricted is that paid dog bite claims involve one of these types of dogs. Period. You can guarantee that if toy poodles started collecting claims, they would also be on the list.

Word has found that insurance companies have limited lists, so in an attempt to get coverage, some people do not reveal they have these dogs and the application reflects this. Depending on the situation, it can be judged as either incorrect presentation or concealment, but regardless of this, there is sufficient reason to reject a statement. Period.

In the worst case, some agents have been less than truthful to the application just to write the business. FYI- this is as bad (if not worse) than not disclosing the information in the first place.

So if Fido decides to grab a visitor, the insurance company can (and will) look at that application. If you lied, it is called a material misrepresentation and not only will the claim NOT be paid, the chances are good that the policy will be canceled shortly thereafter. If the agent lied, the same answer applies.

How to do yourself a favor – Be truthful. You never want to give the insurance company the opportunity to deny a claim. If you have one of the dogs mentioned above, ask if that dog is allowed. If not, go to the next company. I actually know that there are companies out there that allow many of the above breeds, so you just have to do your homework.

When the homeowner's insurance does not cover dog bite claims – your dog has a bite history

Again, most insurance applications ask about previous bite history. If you say no, and it really is, you could have a big problem. Denial of claim and cancellation of insurance can easily follow just as in the example above.

Most insurance companies do NOT write a new homeowner policy that includes a dog with a biting history. It makes sense – the chances are good that the dog will bite again and they will be on the hook to pay the claim.

In the best case, the insurance company can request a liability exclusion for the dog. This means that if the dog bites someone, your insurance will not pay any bills related to that claim (think medical, legal, etc.)

In the worst case, the insurance company just does not write the insurance. Again, there are companies out there that will take out a homeowner's insurance policy for a household with a dog that has bitten before. It may take a little digging, but they're out there.

Existing insurance

When homeowners' insurance does not cover dog bite claims – you have an existing insurance and get a dog on the limited list.

Not only do dogs on the restricted list play a role when writing a brand new policy, but they matter if you have an existing policy.

My suggestion is to contact your insurance company BEFORE you leave the spring Fido from the pound. The limited list may still be applicable and your dog may not qualify.

The best case scenario is that your company will allow a disclaimer, as stated above. So you can still get the dog, you will simply have no liability protection if the dog bites.

Worst case, you get the dog and the insurance company cancels your insurance.

Again, there are many companies that will insure dogs that are usually on the limited list, so do not take the chance that a claim will NOT be paid.

Examples of dog bite claims

You do not have a dog on the limited list and you have answered all questions about the application in a truthful way. But it happens. Fido gets upset and bites a visitor at home.

As mentioned at the beginning, your homeowner's insurance liability should pay for the damages and any legal defense if you are sued (up to the insurance limit). Once the claim is settled, several things can happen.

  • Your insurance company may request that the dog be released from liability.
  • Your insurance company may terminate your insurance.
  • Your insurance company may require you to get rid of the dog to continue the insurance.

So as a general rule, yes, homeowners' insurance will pay if your dog bites someone (provided all business requirements are met and there is no misrepresentation on the application). Again, the rules vary depending on the company and state law, so when in doubt, call your agent and ask as many questions as you need. Ask about the limited list, bite history, reporting requirements if you get a new dog and what would happen if your existing dog bites. It is always better to know before the claim occurs, because after is too late.

Need help with your home insurance in Ohio? Call us at (937) 592-4871 or fill out the form below. We are happy to help!

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