Are Dog Bites Covered by Homeowners Insurance?
There is absolutely no doubt that dogs make great pets. The United States has one of the highest dog ownership rates in the world – with over 60 million households owning at least one dog. At the same time, it is critical to remember that dogs descended from wolves and are perfectly capable of attacking and injuring human beings – young children in particular.
Dog Bites in the United States
Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that roughly 4.5 million people in the country get bitten by dogs every year. About 386,000 of these victims require emergency medical treatment. Aside from physical injuries, many dog bite victims tend to suffer psychological trauma as well.
If you are a dog owner in Kentucky, you should pay attention to these statistics, because if and when your dog bites someone, you may be held liable to compensate the victim for the injuries they sustain and other losses they suffer as a result of the bite. You need not, however, pay the compensation out of your own pocket as long as you have proper homeowner’s insurance.
Dog Bites and Homeowners Insurance
Homeowners insurance protects you against a wide range of liabilities – including the liabilities resulting from dog bites. So, in case your dog bites and injures an animal belonging to someone else or a person, you should not have to pay them out of your own pocket. Your insurance provider should cover these damages on your behalf.
Data shows that claims related to dog bites account for more than 1/3rd of all liability claims on homeowner’s insurance policies. In 2016, insurance companies paid out more than $600 million towards dog bite related liability claims – with the average payout being $33,000.
Many insurance companies feel that paying out such large sums of money on a regular basis is unsustainable in the long run. This is why they have blacklisted certain breeds of dogs, which are known for their aggressive nature and are more likely to attack human beings compared to other breeds. These include:
- Doberman Pinschers
- Pit Bulls
- German Shepherds
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Presa Canarios
- Siberian Huskies
- Great Danes
- Wolf Hybrids
If you own any of the dogs mentioned above, your premium payments are likely to be higher than what someone who owns a Pembroke Welsh Corgi or a Beagle pays for the same amount of coverage. Certain insurers may also refuse to cover you if you own one of these breeds, and if you did not tell them about it, you might find yourself on the hook for a dog bite injury.
Liabilities Resulting from Dog Bites in Kentucky
Kentucky’s laws on dog bites are based on the doctrine of ‘strict liability’ and are generally in favor of the victims. What this means is that if your dog damages a person’s property, attacks and injures a person’s livestock, or attacks and injures another person, you will be held liable for the damages resulting from the attack.
The most important thing to be noted here is that the victim is not required to establish your negligence in order to recover damages from you. They only need to establish the following:
- They were bitten by a dog;
- They sustained injuries and/or suffered other types of losses as a result of the dog’s attack;
- The dog in question is owned by you.
The question of dog owner’s negligence does not arise at all, since it is assumed that you – as the dog’s owner – are responsible for all its actions.
Many states follow the ‘one free bite’ doctrine, which is also referred to as the ‘knowledge of viciousness’ doctrine, when it comes to dog bites. It means that if your dog attacks and injures someone – or causes other kinds of damages – you cannot be held responsible, since you had no reason to suspect that your dog was capable of such an attack.
Kentucky, on the contrary, does not have such exceptions when it comes to dog bites. Even if your dog attacks and injures someone for the very first time, you can be held liable for the attack and the damages resulting from it.
Compensation for Dog Bite Victims in Kentucky
If you are bitten and injured by a dog, you are eligible to seek compensation for the following types of damages:
- Medical treatment
- Physical therapy
- Psychological counseling
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Damage caused to your property
How Dog Owners Can Defend Themselves
If you are a dog owner, you can defend yourself against a liability claim under the following circumstances.
- If the victim teased, provoked, or attacked your dog and got bitten as a result;
- If the victim tried to enter your property without your knowledge or permission, despite being aware of your dog’s presence.
Even in such cases, the victim might not be barred altogether from recovering damages. The amount of compensatory damages that they are eligible to receive, however, would likely be reduced considerably.
Dog Bite Lawyers in Kentucky
The attorneys at John H. Ruby & Associates have extensive experience with personal injury claims and lawsuits – including those resulting from dog bites. If you are looking for a skilled attorney to negotiate on your behalf with the at-fault party’s insurance company or to represent you in court, we can help you. Call our Louisville office today at 502-895-2626 or message us online to schedule a free consultation.