Dog bites can result in significant financial costs, with insurance companies paying out over one billion dollars annually for dog bite claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. To safeguard yourself from potential out-of-pocket expenses stemming from a dog bite incident, it is crucial to ensure adequate coverage limits and consider obtaining an umbrella insurance policy.
While owning a dog can bring immense joy, it is essential to be aware of potential risks and take precautions to prevent dog bites. Dogs can become agitated or aggravated by small children pulling their hair, or tail, or accidentally stepping on them. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to closely monitor our pets and never leave a dog alone with small children. Even if a dog is provoked, it remains the owner’s responsibility to prevent the pet from biting someone. While many claims involve minor bites that only require first aid, the resulting damage can still be severe, such as nerve damage in the hands or feet.
The Insurance Information Institute outlines three types of laws concerning pet liability:
Dog-bite statute: Under this statute, dog owners are automatically held liable for any injuries or property damage caused by their dogs, even without provocation.
“One-bite” rule: In certain states, owners are not initially held liable for the first bite their dogs inflict. However, once an animal demonstrates vicious behavior, such as biting or displaying a “vicious propensity,” the owner can be held liable. Some states have moved away from the one-bite rule and impose liability on owners for any injury, regardless of whether the dog has previously bitten someone.
Negligence laws: According to negligence laws, dog owners are held liable if an injury occurs due to their unreasonable carelessness in controlling the dog.
While it is essential to understand the specific dog bite liability laws in your state, prevention is always the best approach. The Humane Society provides several guidelines to avoid dog bites. Since dogs cannot communicate verbally, it is crucial to pay attention to their body language. Warning signs that a dog may be uncomfortable include
- a stiff tail,
- pulled-back ears,
- intense stare,
- backing away
- visible signs of injury.
It is important not to take toys away from a dog abruptly, as this can provoke aggression. When someone asks to pet your dog, politely ask them to allow the dog to smell them first to ensure the dog is comfortable with the interaction. If your dog reacts negatively to someone, it is perfectly acceptable to inform that person that it is not a good idea to approach the dog.
While we hope that your beloved pup never bites anyone, unfortunate incidents can occur. Ensuring that your home insurance limits are adequate and considering the purchase of an umbrella insurance policy can provide additional protection for your finances in the event of such an incident.