Did you know that 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most victims are young children. Dog bite injuries have a more significant impact on homeowners insurance than you might think: The Insurance Information Institute says dog-related claims accounted for more than $854 million in insurance payments in 2020.
It’s not just bites that cause injuries. Dogs can knock down pedestrians or cyclists, which can lead to severe medical issues.
With those numbers in mind, it’s understandable that insurance companies want to know if you have a dog in your household. Some carriers will refuse to insure you if you have a specific breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior, regardless of whether your dog has ever bitten someone.
Despite that, you should never conceal the fact that you have a dog from your insurance company. If you do, and your dog then causes an injury, your coverage could be invalidated—leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more.
When a bite happens
OK, so your insurance company knows about your dog. But do you have to tell them if the dog bites or injures someone?
If it’s a minor incident, you might consider paying out of pocket for any medical expenses in an attempt to avoid the claims process and a potential increase in your premiums. In some instances, insurance companies will not renew your policy or will exclude your dog from coverage after paying a dog-related claim.
However, this might violate your policy, which probably requires you to report any changes in your circumstances. If you don’t report a bite and the dog bites someone else later, the insurance company might deny you liability coverage for the second incident.
Another risk is the threat of future claims from the victim. Injuries aren’t always immediately apparent and complications can arise later. The victim might decide to sue you down the road. If you’ve waited too long to report the incident to your insurance company, it might be too late to make a claim and receive all the protection your policy was meant to provide—which can include help with attorney fees, medical bills, and more.
According to QuoteWizard, New York, New Hampshire, and Florida lead the nation for average cost per dog bite claim, which averages $53,000. And that’s with an insurance company working on behalf of the insured. If you’re on your own, you could wind up paying even more—a lot more.
Start with your independent agent to discuss your specific situation. Even if you decide not to file a claim—which is always an option—you’ll get proper guidance from an Avery Agent who can help you assess the risk. Give us a ring. 800-759-7579