As a general rule, coverage for dog bites would come from the liability section of your homeowners, condo or renters insurance policy. Liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage to others. I’m sure we can all agree that a dog bite qualifies as bodily injury to others. The policy would pay up to the limit shown.
However……… (you knew that was coming didn’t you?)…..for many insurance-related issues, there is seldom a blanket Yes or No. In fact, coverage for dog bites could depend on the answers on the application (if a new policy) or underwriting rules (if an existing policy). It could even depend on Ohio state law (as Ohio homeowners insurance is regulated by the Department of Insurance).
Are there situations where the policy would NOT pay? Of course. In fact, I think it’s more important to talk about situations where there is NO coverage instead of where there IS coverage. Because no coverage equals you paying the claim out of pocket. Here are some of the most common situations that could equal no coverage.
Applying for a new policy
Is your dog on the “restricted” list?
Many insurance companies will not insure a home if there are dogs that are on the restricted list. Here’s some common dogs that are on the list:
- Pit bull
- Presa Canario
- Wolf Hybrid.
I’m not here to debate whether or not this is discrimination or that “Bruiser the pit bull” is actually the sweetest dog on the planet. There’s always exceptions. The only reason these breeds are restricted is because the dog bite claims that have been paid involve one of these types of dogs. Period. You can guarantee that if toy poodles started to rack up the claims, they’d be on the list too.
Word has gotten out that insurance companies have restricted lists, so in an effort to get coverage, some folks do not disclose they have these dogs and the application reflects this.
In the worst cases, some agents have been less than truthful on the application just to write the business. FYI- this is just as bad (if not worse) than you omitting the information in the first place. Any material misrepresentation on the application (regardless of who answers the question) is grounds for claim denial and cancellation.
So if Fido decides to nibble on a visitor, the insurance company can (and will) look at that application. If you lied, then that’s called material misrepresentation and not only will the claim NOT be paid, chances are good the policy will be cancelled shortly thereafter. If the agent lied, the same answer applies.
So do yourself a favor- Be truthful. You never want to give the insurance company an opportunity to deny a claim. If you have one of the dogs mentioned above, ask if that dog is permitted. If not, go to the next company. I know for a fact there are companies out there that allow many of the above breeds, so you just have to do your homework.
Has your dog bitten in the past?
Again, most insurance applications ask about previous bite history. If you say No, and it’s really Yes, you could have a big problem on your hands. Claim denial and policy cancellation can easily follow just like in the previous example.
Most insurance companies will NOT write a new homeowners policy that includes a dog with a bite history. It makes sense- the chances are good the dog will bite again and they will be on the hook to pay the claim. In the best case scenario, the insurance company may request a liability exclusion for the dog. This means that if the dog bites someone, your policy will not pay any bills related to that claim (think medical, legal, etc.)
In the worst case scenario, the insurance company just won’t write the policy.
If you have an existing homeowners policy
Does your insurance company require you to report a new dog?
What if your policy ISN’T new, and you decide to go get a dog? My suggestion is to contact your insurance company BEFORE you go spring Fido from the pound. The restricted list may still be applicable and your dog may not qualify.
What if the dog I already have decides to bite?
So for whatever reason Fido cops an attitude and bites a visitor to your home. As mentioned in the beginning, your homeowners insurance liability should pay for the injuries and any legal defense if you’re sued (up to policy limit). Once the claim is settled, several things could happen.
- Your insurance company may request a liability exclusion for the dog.
- Your insurance company may cancel your policy.
- Your insurance company may request you get rid of the dog in order to continue the policy.
So as a general rule, Yes, homeowners insurance will pay if your dog bites someone (provided all company requirements were met and there is no misrepresentation on the application). Again, rules vary depending on company and state law, so when in doubt, call your agent and ask as many questions as you need. Ask about the restricted list, bite history, reporting requirements if you get a new dog and what would happen if your existing dog bites. It’s always better to know BEFORE the claim happens, because after is TOO late.
Are you concerned about coverage for your dog on your Ohio homeowners insurance policy? We'd love the opportunity to review your homeowners policy (or help you get a policy for a home you're buying) and see if we can help. Call us at (937) 592-4871 or fill out one of our quote request forms.