Does home insurance cover dog bites?

Dog bites are covered by homeowners insurance. There are two ways homeowners insurance covers dog bites.

The first is via personal liability, which covers injuries and damages for which you are responsible. Since you own the dog, you are responsible for any damage or injuries caused by the dog, including bites. Personal liability covers major medical expenses, legal fees or other sizable expenses incurred as a result of the incident up to the limits of your policy.

Personal liability coverage will protect you whether the dog bite happens on or off your property.

For more minor injuries, the medical payments coverage of your policy may kick in. This coverage covers any minor medical fees incurred by the person bitten, regardless of who is at fault. The coverage usually has a limit of between $1,000 and $5,000

What happens if your dog bites someone on your property?

Legally, your dog is considered your property. So, when they bite someone on your property, the fault falls squarely on you. You are responsible for ensuring that the dog is safely out of the way of visitors to your property.

If your dog bites someone, immediately provide first aid. Remove the dog from the area and secure it. Call for medical aid if necessary.

Your personal liability coverage, as well as your medical payments coverage, will kick in depending on the severity of the bite injury. If the bite victim chooses to take legal action against you then your personal liability coverage will kick in again up to its limits to cover legal fees.

“Since dog bites are so common, we always recommend anyone that owns a dog or pet, also purchase a personal umbrella liability policy. This type of insurance policy provides an additional level of protection in case you’re ever sued, regardless of how frivolous the lawsuit. Typically, these policies start at $1 million in coverage and aren’t that expensive,” Gryglik says.

How to file an insurance claim for a dog bite

If your dog has injured someone, call your insurance company right away. The injured person may also request your insurance information to file the claim themselves, but it is always best to get your statement on the record right away.

Dog bite claims on homeowners insurance can become complicated. The insurance company may offer a settlement that doesn’t fully cover the damages, which may lead to a lawsuit.

If someone else’s dog has bitten you, you can file a claim against them for the injury. To file a dog bite insurance claim, follow these steps:

  • Get as much information as possible. Get the dog owner's full name and insurance company name and request the dog’s medical and vaccine information and any documented acts of aggression. 
  • Take pictures of the injuries you sustained. 
  • If anyone witnessed the bite, try to get a statement if you can. Gather contact information from witnesses.
  • Keep records of all medical treatment needed for the dog bite.
  • Call the dog owner’s insurance company to file your claim, or if the owner has already started the claim, provide your statement and documentation.

Documenting everything is key to a successful claim. You may need to hire a lawyer if the dog owner’s insurance denies the claim.

What happens after a dog bite if the owner has no insurance?

If the owner has no insurance, you may need to consult an attorney to figure out your options. If the owner has homeowners or renters insurance, they should have liability coverage, but not everyone has a policy. Liability insurance for a pet is not required by law.

Before escalating to legal procedures, talk to the dog owner and see if you can make arrangements to get your medical bills paid. If the injury is minor, and your health insurance covers it, you may only need to be repaid for any deductibles and coinsurance that you paid out of pocket. The owner may be willing to pay these to avoid a lawsuit.

If you’re looking to sue the dog owner personally for damages, believing they are liable, be aware that it may be hard to be fully compensated; an owner without insurance most likely doesn’t have the funds needed to compensate you. You may get a judgment against the person, but unless they have assets, like equity in a home, there is no guarantee that you will be paid.

Does renters insurance cover dog bites off the property?

Renters insurance provides personal liability insurance that will cover damages done by you or your dog even if it happens off of the property. It operates in the same way as personal liability insurance on a homeowners insurance policy.

As always, make sure to read the fine print on your renters insurance policy to be aware of any exclusions, including breed exclusions, on dog liability.

What happens if my tenant’s dog bites someone?

If you are a landlord, and your tenant’s dog bites someone, you may be held liable for damages. While it’s not always the case, the landlord could be held liable for damages if:

  • They were able to control/confine the dog and chose not to.
  • They made it easier for the dog to get out by knowingly neglecting the property; for example not patching a hole in the fence or not replacing a loose door.

As a landlord, you can require that your tenants purchase renters insurance, which includes personal liability insurance, to cover any injuries caused by their dog. This will protect you from potential liability.