Does My Dog Need Canine Liability Insurance?

Alaskan Malamute PuppyYou almost certainly have liability insurance for your car, and perhaps your business. Though you may not realize it, your homeowner’s insurance policy probably contains a protection against liability for injuries that occur on your property. In short, liability insurance is a staple of modern life. But, chances are good that you’ve never considered the possibility of liability insurance for your dog. However, if you own a “dangerous” dog, it may be in your best interests to consider canine liability insurance.

What is Canine Liability Insurance?

Canine liability insurance is insurance that protects you in the event your dog causes injury to someone else and a jury determines that you’re negligence makes you liable for it. It is optional insurance that a dog owner can purchase to protect him against liability for his dog causing another harm.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog belonging to a friend or neighbor and are hesitant to commence a legal claim against the dog’s owner, you may want to check into whether they carry canine liability insurance. You may be able to fully recover for your injuries without costing your friend a dime.

Homeowner’s Insurance and Dog Bites

Homeowner’s insurance and renter’s insurance policies often provide coverage for injuries caused by the policyholder’s pet. However, in recent years this coverage has become increasingly limited. Some insurance companies have eliminated this coverage altogether, while others have placed caps on coverage or begun excluding breeds that are perceived to be dangerous. Thus, for many dog owners, this type of coverage no longer offers sufficient protection.

It’s no surprise that homeowner’s insurance carriers and underwriters want to limit the liability associated with dogs. According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 1/3 of all homeowner’s insurance claims in 2016 were dog-related. Those claims cost insurers an aggregate $600 million in a single year. Still, with more than 4.5 million dog bites nationwide each year, that limitation in coverage is a serious problem for many Americans—especially those who live in cities that require dog owners to carry liability insurance.

Worse, many dog owners assume that their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies will cover dog bites, discovering the exclusion or limitation in coverage only after an incident occurs.

Who Should Consider Canine Liability Insurance?

While some breeds are generally considered to be more dangerous than others, any dog can cause an injury that could trigger significant liability. If you’re one of the many poodle, Yorkie, Bichon, or Pekingese owners who thinks that liability insurance is unnecessary—who may even laugh at the image of your five-pound dog causing a serious injury—think again. Small breeds that are generally considered low risk may not cause the type of injury that a Pit Bull or Doberman Pinscher might if it attacked. But, since people are less cautious with small dogs and more likely to pick them up or allow children to play with them, these dogs may bite small children or cause injury to a person’s face, requiring expensive medical treatment.

Thus, canine liability insurance may be a smart investment for any dog owner whose homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy excludes dog-related injuries, places a low limit on payouts for injuries caused by a dog, or excludes the breed owned by the policy holder.

Insuring Dangerous Dogs

One of the reasons for the development of and growth in the canine liability insurance market is the trend toward homeowner’s insurance policies excluding so-called “dangerous breeds” or dogs that have been declared dangerous by a municipality. Some companies offer canine liability insurance for any breed, regardless of statistics or perceived threat and will even insure known biters with certain restrictions.

Given the exposure associated with dog bites, canine liability insurance can be surprisingly affordable. And, dog owners can purchase coverage of up to $300,000, many with no deductible.

Additional Benefits of Canine Liability Insurance

Complying with local law and protecting yourself against liability if your dog should bite or otherwise injure someone are good reason to seriously consider canine liability insurance. However, there are other perks to consider, as well. One significant advantage that dog liability policies offer in some areas is that landlords may be willing to accept dogs otherwise deemed too risky if the dog’s owner brings adequate insurance to the negotiation.

In these situations, canine liability insurance may open up options for those looking to rent apartments with high-risk breeds such as Presa Canarios, German Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies, or who are already renting and want to purchase a dog that is perceived to be dangerous.

Consider Canine Liability Insurance

Canine liability insurance can be an affordable safeguard against liability if your dog bites or otherwise injures someone. However, the possible benefits of a policy go beyond financial protection: a canine liability policy may be necessary to comply with local law, or may make the difference between struggling to find a rental unit that will accept your pet and having a range of options to choose from. If you own a dog, take the time to investigate this type of niche coverage. And, if you’ve been bitten by a dog, investigate whether a canine liability policy is in place to cover your losses.

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Author

Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.