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Are Dog Bites Covered By Homeowners' Insurance?

Trained attack dog Samo leaps forward toward a...

Dog attacks can leave horrific scarring (both physical and mental), can mean missed work, massive medical bills, and in some cases, death. If you are attacked by a dog, what can you do? This is not like a car accident where the drivers exchange information on the side of the road. You need to figure out some very distinct questions, as discussed below.

In dog bite cases, the issue almost always comes down to whether the homeowner knew that the dog living on his/her property was dangerous. If that is the case, and if the homeowner had homeowners' insurance, a claim arising from a dog bite will likely be covered.

Liability of the Dog's Owner

There are two types of liability: 1) strict liability (meaning that the owner is liable no matter what, even if he shows some extraordinary fact that would tend to argue against liability) and 2) negligence (showing that the owner failed to act reasonably in protecting the public from his dog).


There are multiple policies of insurance that might be applicable: 1) a homeowner's policy; 2) an umbrella policy; 3) auto policy; 4) renter's insurance. There are also multiple exclusions that might preclude coverage (meaning that the insurance company will not pay for your damages if the insurance policy did not cover the attack). Some exclusions: resident of the house cannot make a claim; if the homeowner is running a business on the premises it might be excluded. The list can go on and on.

Damages in a Dog Bite Case

Just as with any personal injury case, you can claim the following damages in a dog bite case:

  1. Permanent scarring/disfigurement;
  2. Loss of wages;
  3. Medical bills;
  4. Pain and suffering;
  5. Loss of consortium:
  6. Future medical care; and,
  7. Punitive damages, among others.

There are a number of defenses that might defeat a dog bite claim (that you provoked the dog, that you were trespassing, that you were robbing the house and it was a watch dog, etc.) but in most cases where a dog bites someone, the owner is liable. Of course all of this means finding out who owns the dog and whether they have applicable insurance. In that respect, speaking with a personal injury attorney can be very helpful to understand the lay of the land.