Personal Insurance

Dog Bites – Protecting Your Assets and Preventing Claims


In 2012, dog bite claims accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims.  These claims cost more than $489 million. Though the number of claims in 2012 actually decreased from the prior year, the average cost per dog bite claim ($29,752) was actually an increase over 2011.

Your homeowners insurance policy typically provides liability coverage for dog bite claims; however, the most important action you can take is to prevent dog bites from occurring in the first place.

Protecting Yourself and Your Assets

  • Liability for dog bites is typically covered by homeowners and renters insurance policies.
  • You are responsible for any claims costs, including legal expenses, in excess of the liability coverage you have.  If you aren’t sure what your liability coverage limit is, contact your Leavitt Group insurance consultant to find out.
  • Your insurance premium shouldn’t be affected if you own a dog; however, if your dog does bite someone, you may have to pay an increased premium or the insurer may choose to exclude dog-related injuries from your liability coverage.
  • Most states allow insurance companies to deny or cancel coverage for certain breeds of dogs, even if the dog hasn’t been involved in a claim or bitten anyone in the past.
  • A lawsuit for a dog bite claim can end up costing you a lot of money in legal fees and lost wages.  The personal liability coverage on a standard homeowners policy may not be enough to protect your personal assets.  To protect against claims such as dog bites that could impact a substantial portion of your assets, you may want to consider a personal excess liability policy, also known as an umbrella policy.  To learn more about umbrella policies, visit:

Prevention is Key

leashMelissa Berryman, author and dog owner adviser, stated, “By understanding and respecting how dogs’ instincts and natural behaviors differ from ours, dog owners can prevent bites and insurance headaches.”  Here are a few recommendations for preventing dog bites:

  • Obey your local leash and license laws.
  • Avoid situations that may provoke your dog.  Even dogs that are normally docile may bite when frightened or agitated.
  • Never leave young children alone with your dog, and teach your children proper behavior around dogs.
  • Train your dog to calmly alert you of someone’s approach.  Then take control over the situation to greet the person arriving yourself.
  • Pay attention to how your body language and the tone of voice affect your dog.  If your dog barks when someone is at your door, happily reassure your dog so it understands your guest is not a threat.  If you yell at the dog to stop barking, your dog interprets this as agitation on your part and thinks you feel threatened by whoever is at the door too (understanding tone, not language) which then makes your dog feel more anxious and vulnerable.


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