When A Dog Bites

By: Denise Koslowsky

We love dogs!  For most of us, they are more than a pet; they are a member of your family.  While no one wants to think that their dog would ever do anyone harm, the reality is that dog bites are common.  There are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites each year in the US.  If you are a dog owner, we want to make sure you understand how a dog bite incident could affect your family and offer tips as to what you can do to protect yourself.

When A Dog Bites
When a dog bites, the incident can be very traumatizing for all involved. The victim is often injured and in need of medical care.  Often times they are left with physical scars that can affect them for the rest of their lives, not to mention the emotional scars often left behind.

As an owner, you are likely horrified that your beloved pet caused someone harm.  However, no matter how you feel, it is important for you to understand the law surrounding dog liability claims because lawsuits are common and serious injuries can be rewarded with large settlements.

There are several laws in place that impose the liability of a dog bite on the owners.  The laws vary state by state but the four types of dog bite liability include:

  • The Dog Bite Statute states that the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage caused when the dog bite was unprovoked.
  • The One-Bite Rule states that the dog owner is accountable for an injury when they have knowledge that their dog was likely to cause an injury.  (The burden of proof in the case is on the victim)
  • Strict Liability Rule states that the owner is liable unless they can prove the victim was trespassing or provoking the dog.  (This rule usually takes the place of the One-Bite Rule)
  • Negligence Laws state that the dog owner is liable in the event of an injury occurring because of the owner’s negligence when controlling the dog.

What Do I Do?
First of all remain calm.  Emotions will only make the situation worse.  The first thing you need to do is to contain the dog and once they are safe and removed from the situation, be ready to assist the victim.  Be compassionate.  Suggest that they wash the wound (if possible) with soap and warm water and encourage them to seek immediate medical attention.

Am I Covered?
Most conventional homeowners and renters insurance policies cover dog bite claims.  Coverage however is usually pretty limited.  While the limits can range from between $100,000 – $300,000, should the settlement exceed that amount, you as the owner of the animal would be responsible for any damages above that number.

Tips On Protecting Yourself In The Event Of A Dog Bite Liability Claim:

  • If you have a dog, seriously consider adding a Personal Umbrella Policy to protect you in the event that you are sued and the settlement is for more than the limit on your homeowners or renters limit.
  • Take your dog to school.  Make sure they have gone through basic dog training.
  • Take the time to socialize your dog.  Expose them to as many different people and situations as possible and do your best to make them positive experiences.
  • Don’t set your dog up to fail.  Keep them on a leash or in a fenced in area.  Pay attention to them when other people are around and if you see any warning signs, remove them from the situation if possible.

Educating each client we serve is an important part of what we do each day at Advocate Brokerage. If this article has brought any questions regarding your coverage limits to mind, please get in touch with us at 914-723-7100.

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