Owning a dog can be and usually is a joyous union. But, owning a dog comes with responsibilities and unforeseen events. According to the Insurance Information Institute, over $400 million a year is paid out for dog bite claims each year by insurance companies. While that may seem like a lot, there is an estimated $600 million that was excess over the home insurance policy limits that either the homeowner was left to pay out of pocket or picked up by an umbrella policy, also known as an excess liability policy. Protecting yourself with sufficient home insurance policy limits, as well as considering an umbrella insurance policy, could help you avoid any out-of-pocket expenses should your pooch bite someone.
Regardless of why your dog bites someone, whether they become aggravated or agitated by small children pulling their hair, tail or stepping on them, it is important to watch your pet and never leave a dog alone around small children. While a dog may be provoked, it is still your responsibility to ensure your pet does not bite someone. While most claims are from small bites and only require first aid, the lasting damage can still be severe such as nerve damage in hands or feet.
The Insurance Information Institute states that there are 3 kinds of laws regarding pet liability:
- Dog-bite statute: The dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes, even without provocation.
- “One-bite” rule: In some states, the owner is not held liable for the first bite the dog inflicts. Once an animal has demonstrated vicious behavior, such as biting or otherwise displaying a ‘vicious propensity’, the owner can be held liable. Some states have moved away from the one-bite rule and hold owners responsible for any injury, regardless of whether the animal has previously bitten someone.
- Negligence laws: The dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because he or she was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.
While it is important to understand your state laws regarding dog bite liability, the best course is prevention.
The Humane Society lists several ways to avoid being bitten by a dog. Because dogs can’t tell you what their thinking, it is important to watch the dogs body language. Some signs the dog may be uncomfortable include:
- Stiff tail
- Pulled back ears
- Intense stare
- Backing away
- Dog is visibly injured
- Don’t take toys away quickly
If someone asks if they may pet your dog, ask them politely to let the dog smell them first to ensure the dog is comfortable with it. If your dog reacts negatively to someone, it is okay to tell that person it isn’t a good idea.
We hope that your pup never bites someone, but unfortunately it does happen. Ensuring that your home insurance limits are sufficient and also carrying an excess liability policy called an umbrella insurance policy may help protect your pocketbook in the unfortunate event.
If you have any questions about your home or umbrella insurance, contact your insurance agent at Northern Chesapeake Insurance Services. Northern Chesapeake Insurance Services is comprised of a group of passionate insurance professionals working not only to save you money on your insurance, but to provide you with the best coverage and service available. From their Bel Air Maryland insurance agency, they work with many of the nation’s best insurance companies. Northern Chesapeake Insurance Services insures all types of cars, homes and businesses throughout Maryland. They can even insure your investment property, write your motorcycle insurance and more. Visit them online 24/7 at http://ncins.com or call (410) 420-3080.