Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
Your dog isn’t just a pet — it’s a member of the family. And just like any family member, they could be responsible for harming another person, which could result in an expensive lawsuit and medical expenses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Even the best-behaved pooch could nip a neighbor, knock someone down, trip, scratch or otherwise act in a way that causes injury. Understanding the liability coverage on your homeowners insurance can give you peace of mind that, should your dog bite or hurt someone, you’ll be protected.
Whether out walking Fido or playing in your yard, if your dog bites someone, the liability portion of your homeowners insurance policy will typically help cover you for legal and medical expenses resulting from the injury. If you’re covered, it’ll only be up to the limit listed on your policy, so if a claim exceeds your liability limit, you’d be responsible to pay all damages above that amount.
Even good dogs have bad days. If your dog bites or otherwise harms another dog, your homeowners policy can help to cover the costs of vet bills and legal costs if you’re sued by the other dog’s owner. Check with your insurance agent to be sure your policy provides coverage and what your limits are.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than $686 million in insurance payouts were made for dog bites in 2017. Liability coverage through your homeowners insurance may pay damages from dog bites or dog-related injuries, up to your liability limits, which are listed in your policy. But you would be responsible for medical expenses and legal fees above your liability insurance limit.
Unfortunately, lawsuits and medical bills for severe canine-caused injuries can easily exceed those typical liability amounts. You may want to look into additional coverage for peace of mind — ask your agent about increasing your liability limits or purchasing a personal liability umbrella policy, which adds an extra layer of coverage over and above your primary insurance limits.
Owning some breeds of dogs categorized as potentially dangerous, like pit bulls, Dobermans or Rottweilers, may make your homeowners coverage more expensive or restrictive, and some insurance companies won’t insure homeowners who own these breeds. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance agent to see if you meet the requirements to make sure your dog is covered under your policy.
If your dog has bitten someone, you may be subject to a higher homeowners insurance premium and other coverage limitations may apply. If you’re facing this situation, speak with your agent as soon as possible.
If you’re a homeowner with a dog or plan to get one soon, connect with an American Family agent (Opens in a new tab) to learn how your home insurance may offer protection and whether or not the dog you’re considering is a restricted breed. By reviewing your policy together, you can learn about your liability coverage options and gain the peace of mind that comes with being a responsible pet owner.