At Laureti & Associates, we get a lot of inquiries about dog bites. One of the most common questions we get is "Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?" Typically, the general liability provision of a dog owner's homeowners insurance will cover dog bites, unless the dog has specifically been excluded from the policy because it is a breed known to be, or have the propensity to be, dangerous. The breeds excluded may be influenced by any breed specific legislation enacted in your city, county, or municipality, but generally include: Chow chows, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Akitas, Wolf Hybrids, Presa Canarios, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pit Bulls, and German Shepherds. Most insurance policies provide $100,000-$300,000 in liability coverage which at times is not enough. You should call your insurance agent to make sure your dog is covered and to find out how much coverage you actually have.
This general liability provision will usually cover dog bite incidents that occur off the premises, such as when you are out for a walk, but may not cover bites that occur while a dog is inside of a car. For these types of incidents, the dog owner's car insurance should be consulted for coverage.
Some states have "One free bite" rules, allowing the owner of a dog to escape liability for a bite that occurs when the dog owner had no reason to know the dog was dangerous, however, California does not have this rule. Under California Civil Statute 3342, an injured party does not need to prove the dog was knowingly vicious before the bite occurred. The injured party must only prove the following elements: 1) The defendant owned the dog; 2) The dog bit the plaintiff; 3) The injured party was lawfully on the premises when the bite occurred; and 4) The dog bite caused the injuries.
A person injured by a dog bite may be able to collect medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage. If the dog owner has been held liable for previous dog bites, or the owner's conduct was outrageous in any manner, an injured party may also be able to collect punitive damages (an award of damages meant to punish the dog owner).
If you have any additional questions about dog bites, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are happy to answer any other questions you may have. Feel free to call us at (877) 752-2041 or send us an message. You may also find additional information about dog bites here.