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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

dog showing teeth

In 2022, the United States Postal Service (USPS) ranked Albuquerque among the worst cities for dog attacks on its annual list.

Whether you’re a letter carrier, a child playing in the park, or a neighbor taking your own dog for a walk, being injured in a canine attack is a traumatizing event. Victims are often left with substantial medical bills for emergency treatment and ongoing care for wounds, diseases, and infections. If you were attacked by a dog, you need to know that the owner will bear financial responsibility for the damages you suffered.

So how are dog bite cases handled? Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites? In many cases, yes. Homeowners insurance typically covers damages caused when a dog attacks someone. But not every insurance policy is the same, and the law can be tricky about what cases are eligible for compensation through the insurance carrier.

If you, a child, or a loved one suffered injuries in a New Mexico animal attack, seek legal guidance from a personal injury law firm experienced in dog bite cases. An attorney from Buckingham & Vega Law Firm can sit down and evaluate your legal options with you during a free, no-obligation case consultation.

We’ll be able to advise you of your right to seek damages and the best way to recover maximum compensation. A full assessment of your dog bite case is completely free for you and does not put you under any obligation to hire our law firm to handle your case.

Homeowners Insurance Policies and Dog Bite Liability

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), insurance companies paid $872.1 million for 17,597 dog bite and injury claims in 2020. The average dog bite claim is typically around $49,558 per single incident.

As pets are considered the property of the owner, most homeowners insurance policies cover liability stemming from dog attacks. Other pets (such as horses, cats, or reptiles) may also be included under the terms of the policy. But injuries involving dogs are far more common than any other type of pet-related injury.

The amount of liability coverage a property owner holds will depend on their specific homeowners insurance policy. Most policies range somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000. The homeowner would then be responsible for any financial damages that exceed this limit.

If you have a homeowners insurance policy that covers dog bites, it’s good to read through the small print to fully understand the terms of your coverage. Many policies only cover the first attack from an animal. If the same animal attacks another person, resulting in injuries, the insurance carrier may refuse to take liability for the financial damages. Some insurers will continue coverage after a first attack but will institute a higher premium.

Additionally, some specific dog breeds are not covered by many insurance companies. Breeds like Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, wolf hybrids, Akitas, and German Shepherds are often on the “banned dog breed lists” of home insurance companies, rental insurance companies, and landlords. Although research has shown that training and upbringing (not breed) are the factors that determine a dog’s temperament and likelihood to bite, many companies are eager to preemptively avoid financial liability for the acute injuries that can result when one of these more powerful animals attacks.

Finally, another aspect to consider is the location of the attack. What happens if a dog chases someone out of the yard and into the street, biting them a mile or two off the property? A home insurance company may argue that they are no longer liable for the incident because it occurred at a different location.

From a legal standpoint, cases like these can be challenging. It’s always best to work with a qualified dog bite attorney if the dog owner and their homeowners insurance company are contesting liability for your injuries. Even if the insurance company offers a settlement, a lawyer can help you determine whether the amount is full and fair, capable of covering all current and future losses you may incur.

Tips for Preventing a Dog Attack

Most dog attacks can be prevented. As a pet owner, you have an added responsibility to keep your pet and those they interact with safe from harm. But even if you don’t own a pet, it’s best to familiarize yourself and teach your children how to safely behave near dogs.

As part of the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends the following tips for preventing dog bites.

  • Remember—no matter how gentle and friendly a dog seems (or you know your dog to be); any dog can bite.
  • Keep your pet healthy and take them for regular veterinary checkups. A dog who is sick or in pain is more likely to lash out in an attack.
  • Start leash training and socializing your dog from a young age.
  • Take your dog to supervised doggie play dates.
  • Give your dog a slow transition from resting at home to interacting with strangers outside the house. Don’t rush them into situations of high stimulation.
  • Expose your dog to new situations for short periods of time at first, and be generous with rewards and praise when a new situation is handled well.
  • Always ask for permission before touching another person’s pet.
  • Know to avoid the signs of aggression in dogs (such as teeth baring, growling, stiffening, or lurching).
  • Look for signs that the dog wants to interact with you before engaging with it.
  • Never surprise or sneak up on a dog.

What To Do if You Suffer a Dog Bite in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Being attacked by someone else’s dog can put you in an uncomfortable position. While dealing with the physical, psychological, and financial injuries resulting from the bite, you may also be struggling with the immobilizing effects of guilt.

Many people feel they played some role in the attack. Other people are afraid something will happen to the dog if they report the incident. Still more complicated is the fact that many people know the dog that attacked them. Often, the victim is injured by a friend’s, neighbor’s, family members’, or neighborhood dog.

Under emotionally-charged circumstances like these, people often feel at a loss. They know they need help paying for medical expenses and lost wages, but they don’t know how to go about the legal process of seeking justice.

At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we understand how delicate these situations can be. As parents, neighbors, and dog owners ourselves, we know the strong emotions that come tied up in any dog attack. We can offer you both the compassionate emotional support and the experienced legal guidance you need to move through this difficult period. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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