Dog Owning Homeowners in Florida Need Dog Bite Coverage

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

When most Florida homeowners think of homeowner’s coverage, their focus is on financial protection for damage to the actual dwelling and the personal property inside the home, such as clothing, home furnishings, art, jewelry, and appliances.    Some homeowner’s policies do not provide coverage for dog attacks which can result in substantial financial loss.  Dog bite injuries often occur when homeowners do not anticipate a problem.  Even if your dog does not have a history of viciousness, your dog might become aggressive out of the blue and expose you to significant liability by causing permanent disfigurement or disability during a mauling incident.

Florida Statutes § 767.04 authorizes a victim to recover damages from a dog owner for dog bite injuries.  When a dog attack victim receives an award of damages in a lawsuit, the dog owner will often cover the cost with his or her homeowner’s insurance.  However, liability claims related to dog attacks are not covered under all homeowner’s policies.  If your dog injures another person but your policy does not extend to injuries caused by the family dog, you might have no choice to pay the claim out of pocket.  This means that homeowners who have a dog need to carefully review their policy to ascertain whether dog bites or other canine-related injury claims are covered.  A fair number of policies include dog bite exclusions to limit or reduce their exposure.

Homeowners who own a dog need to know that a number of Florida insurance companies have created special dog bite coverage as a separate policy that does not include breed restrictions.  The existence of this type of coverage is important for homeowners who have breeds that tend to be subject to such restrictions like Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls, and Rottweilers.  If you do not have this type of special policy, you might not have coverage for a bite incident if you have a breed considered to be vicious.  It is important to know what type of coverage you have before a dog bite incident occurs.

Many dog owners assume that dog attacks are rare, so there is little risk of liability.  However, dog bite statistics tells another story.  In a recent one year period, nearly 150 dog bite claims were filed in Florida.  Dog bites account for a third of all homeowner’s insurance claims.  The average cost of a claim for a dog bite amounts to approximately $32,000.  In other words, liability coverage for dog-related injuries can provide a critical form of financial protection for homeowners.

If you have liability coverage that extends to dog bites, your insurer typically will be obligated to tender a defense and indemnify you against the loss arising out of a dog attack.  When your insurer refuses to fulfill these duties under the policy in bad faith, the insurer might be liable for extra-contractual damages. 

If your insurance carrier is refusing to comply with its contractual obligation, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney.  My law firm specializes in representing policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. Click here to read about some of our case results.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM. 

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