More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S., according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.  In most cases, homeowners insurance will pay for medical expenses and legal fees if your dog bites someone. However, certain breeds are categorized as “dangerous” and are either difficult to insure or excluded from coverage altogether. You also may be denied coverage if your dog has a history of aggressive behavior.
Homeowners insurance typically covers dog bites up to the limits spelled out in the dog owner’s policy.
Certain dog breeds, like pit bulls, rottweilers, and chow chows, may be categorized as “dangerous” and excluded from coverage altogether.
If a dog bite claim exceeds the personal liability or medical payments coverage limits in your policy, you as the dog owner will be responsible for the remaining expenses.
How does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?
As long as your dog isn’t an excluded breed, your home insurance will likely cover you if your dog bites someone.
Here’s how it works.
The personal liability component of your homeowners insurance covers damage and injury you’re responsible for. So if your pup bites someone, your liability coverage can cover their medical expenses or any legal fees. Most insurance companies offer between $100,000 and $500,000 in personal liability coverage.
The medical payments coverage in your policy covers more minor medical fees of your guests — regardless of who is at fault.You can typically get between $1,000 and $5,000 in medical payments coverage.
An umbrella policy offers more liability coverage
If you want more liability coverage than your policy offers, consider a personal umbrella policy. With umbrella insurance, you can extend your liability coverage in $1 million increments — typically up to $5 million. This may be a good idea if you have a more aggressive dog, or if you recently adopted one and are still learning its personality.
When will homeowners insurance cover a dog bite?
Below are situations when homeowners insurance can help cover the costs associated with a dog bite
When your dog bites a guest
If your dog bites a guest in your home and they’re injured, your medical payments coverage can help pay for things like an ambulance and first aid. If the injury is severe, liability coverage can help pay for their more extensive medical bills. And if you and the guest have a dispute and they take you to court over the matter, your liability coverage can help pay for legal fees.
When your dog bites someone away from your home
Homeowners insurance generally covers dog bites on and off your property, like if your dog bites someone at the park. However, you should check your policy to make sure it doesn't specifically limit your coverage to dog bites that happen on your premises.
When your dog damages someone else’s property
If you take your dog to your friend’s house and your pup tears apart their new fancy sofa, liability coverage can help pay for the property damage.
When won’t homeowners insurance cover dog bites?
Whether or not you’ll be covered if your dog bites someone largely depends on your insurance company. Below are some situations when you wouldn’t be covered for a dog bite.
History of biting
Once your dog has bitten someone, it’s deemed high risk. This could lead to an increased homeowners insurance premium when it’s time to renew your policy or might exclude your dog from coverage. In the worst case scenario, your homeowner’s insurance policy could be rejected for renewal altogether.
Certain breeds may also be excluded from some homeowners insurance policies if companies consider them higher risk. Below are some dog breeds that may be excluded from coverage.
Any wolf breeds
Make sure to look out for caveats in your policy — some insurance companies might still include your dog in coverage if it’s completed a certain amount of training.
Some states ban dog breed discrimination
Dog advocacy groups are working on getting breed discrimination banned. Illinois, Nevada, and New York have all passed legislation that bans insurers from preventing coverage due to dog breed.
If your dog bites you or a resident of your household
Liability coverage and medical expenses coverage does not protect you or residents of your home from injury.
Can I get homeowners insurance after a dog bite?
Yes, you can still get homeowners insurance after your dog bites a person or another dog — but your existing insurer may not be willing to cover your dog after a dog-bite claim. When it’s time to renew your policy, your dog may be excluded from coverage or your insurer may choose not to renew your coverage at all.
Renewing your policy after a dog bite claim
You can still get insurance even after your dog has bitten someone, but your insurance company may make changes to your policy to reflect the increased risk. When it’s time to renew your policy, your homeowners insurance rates may go up or your insurer may offer you the option to renew your policy but exclude your dog from coverage.
In the worst case scenario, your home insurance policy won’t be renewed at all, in which case you should use an insurance marketplace like Policygenius to compare coverage and rates with other insurance companies that are friendly to dogs with a history of biting.
Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites to other dogs?
Yes, your homeowners insurance can cover the cost if your dog bites another dog and they need to go to the vet or the other owner decides to sue you. Check with your insurer to be sure they’ll cover vet bills and related costs if your dog injures another dog.
Consider pet liability insurance
If your dog is excluded from coverage for any reason or if your homeowners policy doesn’t cover dog bites at all, you can get pet liability insurance. This covers dogs of all breeds if they bite another person or animal. Your homeowners insurance company may offer it as an endorsement or a standalone pet liability policy, but you may also be able to buy a pet policy from a specialized liability insurer if they don’t.
Here are a few pet liability insurance companies you might want to check out:
Prime Insurance Company
Einhorn Insurance Agency
8 tips for preventing dog bites
There are several steps you can take to get ahead of a potentially dangerous dog bite situation. Remember, if you’re struggling with your dog’s behavioral issues, it’s always a good idea to consult a vet or professional trainer. Here are a few tips to get started:
Socialize your dog early and often. Introducing your dog to other dogs, humans, and new situations early on can ease their hostility as they get older.
Visit the vet regularly. Make sure your dog is vaccinated and up to date on all shots; a sick dog may react more erratically than a healthy one.
Hire a professional. A professional dog trainer will know how to handle your dog and can teach you tips that work for your particular pup.
Walk your dog. Just like exercise and fresh air promote healthy minds and bodies for humans, they also promote healthy behaviors for your dog.
Keep your dog on a leash. Always keep your dog on a leash on walks or when out in public.
Don’t leave your dog unattended. You can get in all kinds of trouble if your dog bites someone and you weren’t there to witness it, so make sure your dog is attended to in open yards and public areas.
Know your dog. You know your dog best, including what stresses them out and what calms them down, so keep them away from their stressors and any potentially threatening environments.
Stay alert. Always be ready to act, especially when others are around or your dog starts displaying aggressive behavior.