Dog bites are more common than most people would think. Dogs bite 4.5 million people each year. About 20% of these dog bite victims require medical attention. If a dog recently bit you, you may wonder if the dog’s owner has dog bite homeowners insurance.
In California, dog owners are responsible for all damages resulting from a dog bite. A dog owner’s homeowners insurance usually pays for bite victims’ medical care and related damages. If the dog owner is not insured, or the insurance limits are lower than the actual damages, the owner is personally responsible for paying.
Dog Bite Homeowners Insurance Claims: Will They Be Paid?
Since California imposes strict liability for dog bites, dog owners are always responsible when their dogs bite people. If a dog owner has insurance that covers dog bites, the insurance company should pay.
Some homeowners insurance policies, however, will not cover dog bites. In these situations, a dog bite victim must pursue the dog owner personally for damages.
Even when a dog owner’s policy does cover dog bites, a dog bite homeowners insurance claim may be denied. Common reasons for these denials include the following:
- Previous dog bite homeowners insurance claims have been filed on the same dog.
- The insurance company excludes certain types of dog from coverage, and the dog that bit the victim is one of these breeds.
- The dog owner acted in a way that violates the insurance policy.
Common Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
Sometimes insurance companies deny dog bite homeowners insurance claims based on the bite victim’s behavior. Three of the most common defenses are that the dog bite victim trespassed on the owner’s property, provoked the dog, or assumed the risk of a dog bite. Other defenses include that the dog is involved in police or military work or was defending its owner’s life or property according to California’s self-defense laws.
A trespasser need not be compensated for dog bite injuries. If a dog bite victim enters private property without permission, the dog owner is not responsible for the bite. An experienced dog bite lawyer can help a dog bite victim rebut this defense. Delivery people, kids who often play in a yard and have not been told to leave, and neighbors who regularly walk across each other’s yards are generally not considered trespassers.
Provoking the Dog
If a dog bite victim teases, hits, or intentionally scares a dog before the bite, the dog owner may not be liable for the victim’s injuries. Provocation is a broad term and exceptions exist. For example, courts have said that the defense of provocation cannot apply when the dog bite victim is a young child because young children don’t understand the consequences of their actions or they may act impulsively. Older youth and adults may be excepted from this defense because of limited intellectual capacity, misunderstanding, or other reasons. Contact an experienced dog bite attorney if a dog’s owner plans to use provocation as a defense.
Assumption of risk
Anyone who works with dogs in a professional capacity, such as a veterinarian, dog trainer, or animal groomer knows that dogs can bite. Despite this, these people choose to work with dogs. Therefore, they are considered to knowingly assume the risk of a dog bite.
People who ignore warnings about dogs are also considered to assume the risk of a dog bite. Signs on a dog owner’s property are one type of warning (such as “beware of dog”). Another type of warning occurs when the owner tells a person not to approach the dog because the dog could bite or the dog doesn’t like people. If, despite these warnings, a person gets close enough that the dog bites them, the owner will say that the victim assumed the risk and therefore the owner is not liable.
Why Kinds of Injuries Do Dog Bite Claims Pay For?
Injuries from dog bites include:
- Puncture wounds
- Deep tissue wounds
- Torn ligaments and tendons
- Ripped muscles
- Crushed bones
- Lacerated organs
- Vision loss and blindness
- Hearing loss
- Psychological and emotional distress
The most serious dog attacks can lead to hospitalization, life-threatening infections, surgery, permanent scarring and disfigurement, and death.
A dog’s owner must compensate a dog bite victim for damages that can include medical bills, psychological counseling, lost wages, emotional distress, rehabilitation, and scarring and disfigurement.
A dog owner is also liable for a victim’s loss of enjoyment of life activities. For example, some dog bite victims become so fearful of dogs that they are no longer able to enjoy their regular activities such as jogging, going to the beach, or walking children to a playground. Dog owners must compensate bite victims for this interference with daily life.
Oftentimes, a dog bite victim knows the dog’s owner. The two might be neighbors, friends or relatives. These relationships can create awkward situations following a dog bite. However, even then, victims should not hesitate to seek medical advice and ask the dog owner to pay. Dog bite victims should remember that the insurance company, not the dog’s owner, compensates the victim.
Contact A Long Beach Dog Bite Injury Attorney For Help
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, call me for help. In my 35 years of advocating for accident victims, I have represented hundreds of dog bite victims. A pool maintenance worker I represented received a jury verdict of $388,000 after a dog attacked him while working. In that case there was only $100,00.00 worth of insurance coverage but I got the insurance carrier to pay the entire verdict. In another dog bite case, a dog attacked a four-year-old boy. That case resulted in a $300,000 settlement. While these cases are individual examples and are not representative of awards in every dog bite case, they illustrate how severe dog bite injuries can be.
Dog bite victims’ damages depend on the injuries suffered and the individual facts of each case. Your injuries are personal to me. As a seasoned dog bite attorney, I will handle your case personally and provide strong, compassionate representation.
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