In addition to property coverage, homeowners insurance also provides liability coverage in the event that someone is injured on your property.  One of the most common liability claims under a homeowner’s insurance policy involves injuries caused by dogs.  Injuries related to dog bites and dog attacks constitute one-third of all homeowner insurance claims according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).  The amount paid out by insurance companies on dog bite claims has increased by fifty percent during a ten year period ending in 2012.  The III and State Farm®, the largest provider of homeowner insurance coverage, indicate that the insurance industry pays out $489 million annually in claims-related to dog bites in response to about 16,500 paid claims.

Policyholders should be aware that in some cases homeowner’s policies may exclude dog bite liability just as they do certain perils and types of property damage.  If you are unsure if your policy covers dog bites, you should review the language closely because coverage will be based exclusively on the language in your policy.  Some homeowner policies expressly exclude all dog bites and injuries-related to dog bites.  If your policy has such a provision, courts will generally recognize the exclusion.

Another limitation of coverage for dog bite liability claims depends on the location of the incident.  Policies that provide coverage will generally require that the bite incident occur in the home or on the property outside the home.  If your dog is unleashed and bites a neighbor across the street, this claim generally will not be covered.

A final form of exclusion applies to dogs with “known vicious propensities.”  Depending on your policy, this restriction may apply to certain breeds of dogs considered more prone to attacking people like pit bulls and Rottweilers, dogs that have demonstrated vicious behavior in the past, or both.

As with exclusions related to property damage, it is important to carefully read you policy to ensure it includes coverage for dog bites if this is a form of liability protection that you want your policy to provide.  Some insurance companies provide this coverage as a “rider” on the policy, so you need to pay a little more for this coverage. 

Homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage that includes an insurer’s duty to defend you against personal injury lawsuits and to attempt to settle such claims within policy limits.  Sometimes insurance companies will refuse to defend an insured or refuse to settle for policy limits, which exposes an insured to out-of-pocket financial exposure at trial.  If your insurance company is refusing to defend you or refusing reasonable settlement within policy limits, you should consult with an experienced insurance claims attorney.

Some other common examples of exclusions related to liability include the following:

  • Losses related to business operations
  • Incidents arising from use or maintenance of a motor vehicle
  • Injury to a relative that resides at the property

These examples of exclusions to liability coverage under a homeowner’s policy constitute only a miniscule sampling of the types of exclusions that your homeowner’s policy might contain.  Further, many policies allow you to add coverage for some of these exclusions or provide coverage subject to conditions and limitations.  The bottom line is that homeowner’s need to understand what is covered under their policy and what is excluded.  If you have questions about your policy, you should speak to your insurance agent and/or a Florida insurance coverage attorney.

You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.
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