by Alison Neumann

Dog Bite Liability


Many Americans regard dogs as cute, cuddly, friendly, and loveable animals. However, some people view dogs as vicious, dangerous, and potentially harmful. The stay-at-home orders of 2020 gave numerous households an impulse to adopt dogs at a much higher rate than average. According to the American Pet Products Association, almost 90 million dogs currently live in American households. While many adoptions were well-intended and brought comfort to the new pet owners and the dogs themselves, all of the adoptions came with the responsibility and liability of owning a dog.

What happens when your dog bites another person? If that person is not your family or household member, you may be sued in a liability claim. In 2019 dog bite claims cost homeowners $797 million in insurance claims. This was an increase in the average cost per claim by 14.7% from the previous year, at an average of $44,760. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 4.5 million people per year are bitten by dogs in the U.S.

In Michigan, dog bites are considered a strict liability and owners are held accountable for the actions of their dogs. The only exceptions would be if the injured person was either trespassing or provoking the animal to bite. Another exception would be considered in the case of a police dog. However, if you are a regular citizen with a dog who bites another person, you may be held responsible for all damages your dog causes. If your dog causes serious injury, it can even lead to criminal penalties. Out of the 50 states, Michigan is rated 8th highest for number of dog bite claims with an average cost of $42,833 for 2019.

How can you protect your home and your pooch from having to foot a bill like that? Having the right homeowners or renters insurance policy in place will protect you and your assets from lawsuits resulting from a dog bite. Those liability insurance policies will typically cover legal expenses, up to the liability limits in the policy. If the claim is higher than your limits, you would be responsible for the remainder of the damages awarded.

Making sure you are properly insured will give you peace of mind when accidents do happen.  To find out if you have the proper insurance you need or for any insurance inquiries, contact your agent today.

References:

“Industry Insider” Acuity Infocus Magazine 2020, Issue 10

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/dog-bite-statutes.html

https://www.iii.org/article/spotlight-on-dog-bite-liability#:~:text=Homeowners%20and%20renters%20insurance%20policies,all%20damages%20above%20that%20amount.

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