Why Dog Owners Need Liability Insurance
Most owners do not have to worry about their dogs biting or hurting people, but it is important to know that even with the calmest and most well-behaved canines, there is a potential risk that a dog injures somebody. In this scenario, as a responsible pet owner, having Liability Insurance that ensures protection from dog bites is necessary.
It is difficult to generalize the context of these situations, but dog bites most often occur when the dog feels threatened. According to the Insurance Information Institute (iii), the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that require medical attention.”
Knowing how to proceed when your dog unexpectantly bites someone is vital to make sure the victim does not suffer from long-term injury or illness. Sadly, this is a situation that most owners do not know how to prepare for. The result usually ends up in expensive medical bills and sometimes in lawsuits. Therefore, having the right coverage in place is a crucial step to take if you decide to incorporate a dog as a member of your family.
Keep reading to discover how to act and the liability coverage you should have to cover damages and ensure protection in the case that your dog bites somebody.
Steps to Follow After a Dog Bite
According to Pet MD, an organization of experts and veterinarians specialized in pet health and nutrition, “dog mouths are NOT cleaner than our mouths. In fact, studies have shown that hundreds of unique bacterial species can be identified in the saliva of dogs.” This means that even a small dog bite can not only cause damages but also develop infections in the human body.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends in the case of a bite situation, to take the following actions:
- Minor Wound Care: Wash the injury with soap and water, apply an antibiotic cream, and cover it with a bandage.
- Deep Wound Care: For a deep wound, apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding and seek medical attention immediately.
After a wound is cared for, keep these warning signs in mind and visit a medical provider if:
- The wound will not stop bleeding, it is extremely painful, or if function in that area is lost.
- It is red, painful, or swollen, or if the victim develops a fever.
- If you are unsure the dog has an updated rabies vaccination.
- The victim has not had a tetanus shot in five years.
Owner Liability for Dog Bites
From an insurance point of view, you as the owner of the dog carry the liability if your pet bites somebody in one of the following circumstances:
- You know your dog tends to bite and cause injury.
- When state statutes make you the owner liable.
- If the dog bites because of carelessness or neglect.
These situations are backed by laws that hold dog owners liable for injury imposed by their pet:
- Negligence Laws: You can be held liable if negligent in caring for or controlling your pet is the main cause of the damage and causes injury to the victim.
- Dog-Bite Statutes: When this law is in place, as an owner you are immediately held liable for personal injury or property damage caused by your dog.
- “One-Bire” Laws: In some states, if your dog bites somebody, you will not be held liable if it is the first instance. After the first time where a dog presents as vicious, owners will be held liable if it happens again.
Also, remember that in most states if a person trespasses on your property and your dog bites them, you will not be held liable for their injury. Although you are protected in the case of trespass on your property, in any other situation where your dog bites somebody, you will need insurance coverage in place for the damages.
How Pet Owners Can Assure Insurance Protection
Most homeowners and renters’ insurance policies provide up to $300,000 in damages for pet owners. If a claim exceeds this limit, you will be responsible for the rest of the claim. But, as we have seen, this only covers you if your dog bites someone on your property.
Because of the limitations of the law, dog owners may want to invest in personal excess liability coverage. This insurance protects you from personal liabilities outside of your other coverage. The policy is inexpensive and helps you cover the cost of any damage your dog may inflict.
When trying to cover the risk of your dog potentially injuring a person, the best line of action is to be a responsible pet owner. Trained dogs are less likely to bite, so working with pets to improve discipline and respect is the best way to avoid these conflicts.
To learn more about different insurance policies available, check out the SmartCompliance blog.