Any dog, even the well-mannered ones, can bite. As an owner, you’re responsible for your pet’s behavior, including covering medical costs for dog bite-related injuries — lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Having dog bite liability insurance can help you manage the expenses. You may have this coverage as part of your homeowners insurance policy.
Understanding the costs of dog-related injuries, common coverage restrictions and when dog bites are covered can help you find the best homeowners insurance suitable for your circumstances and needs.
Costs of Dog-Related Injuries and Claims
Dog bites can cause injuries, which may cost a dog owner thousands of dollars. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average liability insurance claim for dog bites is $17,597. In more severe cases, a victim may file a lawsuit for lost wages, property wages, pain and trauma therapies, settlements, judgment and jury awards. This expense could significantly impact your finances.
Dog Bite Claims: Estimated Number and Cost (2013–2022)
Number of Claims
Average Cost per Claim
Value of Claims ($ Millions)
Source: Insurance Information Institute
Insurance companies paid out more than $1.1 billion on liability claims related to dog bites in 2022, according to the III. This is a 28.8% increase from the recorded total value of $881.9 million in 2021. With the number of claims decreasing by 2.2% to $17,597, the cost per claim increased in 2022. The average cost of a dog liability insurance claim was $64,555, 31.7% more than 2021’s average of $49,025.
Top 10 States With the Highest Number and Cost of Dog Bite Claims
Number of claims
Average cost per claim
Value of claims ($ millions)
Source: Insurance Information Institute
The cost of dog bite claims varies from state to state. The latest III report shows that 53.42% or 9,393 of all claims reported in the country in 2022 came from 10 states. Around 57.37% of the total value of claims in the country, or $154 million, were also distributed in these states. Dog owners in these states received an average of $69,323 per claim. This is higher than the national average of $64,555.
Dog Owners’ Liability for Bites and Injuries
Generally, dog owners can be held liable for any injury and damage their pets cause to other parties. However, specific legal obligations and rules depend on the state. Dog bite laws are divided into three categories: Dog-bite statute, one-bite rule and negligence law.
Also referred to as strict liability, this legal provision states that dog owners are liable if their dog bites someone or causes property damage, as long as the injured party wasn’t trespassing or didn’t provoke the dog.
Under this rule, dog owners are held responsible if they know their dog tends to bite or be aggressive. In such cases, the affected person has to prove that the owner knows of their dog’s behavior.
A dog owner is only legally liable for damages or injuries their dog caused if they have been negligent. If an owner doesn’t take steps to manage their dog’s behavior, they’re considered negligent.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Typically, a standard homeowners insurance policy covers pet damage under personal liability or medical payments coverage. This means your insurance provider will help you pay medical expenses and property repair costs if you’re liable for the accident your pet causes to another party. Damages to your items or property aren’t covered. Liability limits typically range from $100,000—300,000.
Some companies may decline coverage for certain dog breeds. Before purchasing home insurance, make sure you check for any coverage restrictions. It would also be best to compare prices, as insurance companies tend to calculate premiums differently.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Dog liability insurance applies to bodily injuries and property damages to another party. Below are some common dog-bite situations when your homeowners insurance policy applies.
Your dog bites a guest
The medical payments or liability coverage part of your homeowners insurance will pay for related expenses if your dog bites a guest in your home or property and causes injuries. Your policy may also cover legal fees if the victim takes the dispute to court.
Your dog bites someone away from your home
Standard homeowners insurance typically covers dog bites occurring away from your property. However, some policies may limit coverage to incidents happening on your premises. Make sure you review your policy and check with your insurer.
Your dog causes damage to a third party’s property
Dog liability insurance also covers incidents wherein your dog tampered with or broke someone else’s belongings, including personal items.
Your dog bites another dog
Insurance policies may also cover related expenses if your dog bites another dog not living in your household.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Not Cover Dog Bites?
Homeowners insurance policies don’t cover all dog bites. Here are some scenarios when you don’t have coverage:
Your dog has a history of biting
Dogs with a biting history are considered high-risk. Because of this, your insurance company may decide to exclude dog liability insurance from your coverage.
Your dog bites a member of your household
Homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover injuries to members of your household. That means if your dog bites you or a family member living in the same home, your insurer won’t help cover the medical expenses.
Your dog is considered a high-risk breed
Insurance companies may have a list of breed restrictions. If your dog falls under any of these high-risk breeds, your policy doesn’t provide coverage. Generally, mixes of any of these breeds are also excluded.
Your insurance provider doesn’t cover dog bites
Not all home insurance companies cover dog bites or other dog-related injuries. Make sure you read the fine print before agreeing to the policy.
Every insurance company may have a specific list of dog breeds not covered by homeowners insurance. However, there are certain breeds commonly included in these restrictions.
- Pit bulls (including American pit bull terriers and any related breed)
- Alaskan malamutes
- Chow chows
- Doberman pinschers
- German shepherds
- Great danes
- Presa canarios
- Siberian huskies
- Staffordshire terriers
- Wolf breeds
Although a dog’s breed isn’t an indication of whether it’ll bite or attack someone, many insurers restrict certain breeds they consider to be high-risk. Clarify with your agent or carrier whether or not their policies exclude your dog’s breed.
Laws governing homeowners insurance vary per state. Five states — Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania — do not permit insurance companies to deny or exclude coverage based on breed.
Navigating Dog Bite Liability With Homeowners Insurance
Standard homeowners insurance policies typically cover dog bites under the liability or medical payments coverage. Umbrella insurance policies can also help protect you against related expenses exceeding your home insurance liability limits. Keep in mind that not all insurers provide dog liability insurance coverage. Some may charge extra.
Renters insurance may also provide the same coverage. In certain cases, landlords may also be liable for dog bites on their premises.
Homeowners Coverages for Dog Bites
Homeowners and renters insurance policies usually cover bodily injuries and property damage to another party. You can file a claim if your dog bites or attacks. The maximum compensation for such incidents depends on the policy limits you buy. In most cases, liability limits range from $100,000—300,000.
For dog bite coverage policies, payouts will be removed from the personal liability or medical payments component. Having a supplementary umbrella coverage will cover expenses exceeding your homeowners insurance limits.
This part of homeowners or renters insurance covers any damage or injury to another person. If your dog bites someone, your personal liability coverage will help you pay related medical expenses, property damage, and legal fees.
Medical payments coverage
This component covers medical bills for minor injuries a third party incurs while on your property. Limits for this part are typically lower, averaging $1,000—5,000. Common medical expenses this coverage pays for include visits to emergency rooms, hospital stays, physical therapy, X-rays or other medical tests, nursing, prosthetic devices, ambulance services and funeral service.
If you think your homeowners insurance policy doesn’t have adequate liability limits, you may opt to get an umbrella policy. This will help you pay if the total dog-bite-related expenses exceed your home insurance coverage limits as it extends limits up to millions of dollars.
Generally, the responsibility for dog bites falls to dog owners. However, some circumstances may also hold a landlord liable for an attack.
- The landlord is the dog owner.
- The landlord knows an aggressive or high-risk dog is on their premises.
- The landlord is proven to have exhibited negligence.
Landlords may take extra steps to protect others against a dog on their property. They can put up warning signs or gates and fences. Purchasing renters liability insurance can also help landlords protect themselves from expenses related to dog bites.
How Much Homeowners Insurance Do You Need for Dog Bite Coverage?
How much coverage you need depends on your circumstances. While most carriers provide liability limits from $100,000—500,000, you may consider lower or higher coverage.
The average dog bite claim cost for an owner is $64,555. Considering possible future expenses for more severe cases, it may be best to have at least $100,000 in liability coverage.
Homeowners Insurance After Dog Bites
Depending on your insurance carrier, a dog bite incident may result in higher premiums. Some companies may decide not to renew your coverage. Others may renew your policy but exclude your dog from the coverage.
After a dog bite claim, check with your agent or insurer whether the incident will impact your policy. If your insurer doesn’t renew your coverage, you may have to start looking for another carrier.
Is Your Homeowners Insurance Dog Friendly?
When searching for the best homeowners insurance, dog owners may want a policy offering dog liability insurance coverage. You can start your search by checking for dog-friendly insurance companies. Ask if they extend coverage to high-risk breeds and accept dogs with a biting history.
To ensure you’re getting a dog-friendly policy, clarify restrictions and exceptions with your agent or carrier. Read the policy terms and conditions thoroughly to know the specifics of the coverage. Some well-known companies offering dog-friendly home insurance are Allstate, State Farm and USAA (for military families).
If you have difficulty finding a policy providing personal liability that includes dog liability insurance, you may consider getting pet liability coverage. This may also be referred to as animal liability insurance. Some companies may offer this as an add-on to home insurance, while others may have a different offering.
Costs and coverage may vary per insurer, so it would help to shop around. You can start by checking well-known homeowners insurance providers or searching online for companies offering this animal liability insurance.
How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner
Prevention and precaution are the first steps to protecting your finances against possible dog bite incident costs. While there’s no sure way of stopping accidents, you can lower the possibility of it happening in the first place.
Below are some tips to consider as a responsible dog owner.
Put your dog on a leash
Use a leash, especially when you go outside of your property. It may also help to install fences around your property to prevent them from going outside without supervision.
Train your dog
Enroll in a basic training program to teach your dog obedience. You can hire or consult a professional trainer to help you attain positive results.
Help them socialize
Expose your dog to various situations, including loud noises, large machinery, bicycles, vehicles and other dogs. Helping them get used to visitors and friends will also prevent fear and aggressive behaviors.
Be attentive. As a dog owner, you should learn to read cues to determine when your dog’s behavior may lead to aggression.
Don’t use violence
When disciplining your dog, avoid violent or aggressive punishments. Rewarding desirable behavior is a better and more effective solution.
Keep them healthy
Ensure your dog gets the proper vaccinations. Routine wellness checkups will allow you to monitor their overall well-being.
How to Deal With a Dog Bite Incident
Dogs, no matter how well-mannered, may be prone to biting someone or damaging properties. Knowing what to do after an attack is essential for a dog owner. Aside from ensuring the victim's safety, you should also report the incident to your insurance company immediately. If the victim decides to sue, consult a lawyer to know what steps you should take next.
Don’t panic. Avoid starting an argument with your victim, which may worsen the situation. Call an ambulance or dial 911 to get immediate medical attention and check the victim’s well-being.
If possible, give your insurance information to the victim. Get their contact information as well. If you can find witnesses, it would also help to ask for their contact information in case you need it after the incident.
As much as possible, keep other people and animals away, as their presence may further agitate or overwhelm your dog.
Contact your insurer
Inform your insurance carrier about the incident. Check if your coverage includes dog bites or attacks.
Seek legal help
If the victim decides to pursue legal action or asks you for money, it may be best to consult a lawyer.
Expert Insight on Dog Bite Liability
Understanding dog liability insurance can be confusing, especially since rules and restrictions may vary. MoneyGeek asked an industry expert to share insights you may find useful as you try to navigate homeowners insurance and dog bite liability.
- What are the most important factors should dog owners consider when looking for homeowners insurance?
- What are the most important steps a pet owner should take if their dog bites another person? How can they make an insurance claim?
- What resources/tools can you share for homeowners who want financial protection against possible dog-bite incidents caused by their pet?
Lawyer at Rammelkamp Bradney Attorneys at Law
Agency Owner of Insurance Brokers Group
Owning a dog comes with responsibilities. Aside from ensuring your pet’s well-being, you should also prevent them from hurting others. Here are some resources to help you be a responsible pet owner.
- American Animal Hospital Association: Access guides and learn tips to keep your dog healthy and safe.
- American Kennel Club: Find books, brochures and general tips you can use to educate yourself and others about responsible canine ownership.
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Learn about the Animal Welfare Act and Animal Care Emergency Programs with the help of this U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty: Understand the different options to address your dog’s behavior.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Learn more about your canine companion and access resources to help cover veterinary, food and treatment expenses. You can also find safety tips.
About Nathan Paulus
- American Veterinary Medical Attention. "Dog Bites By the Numbers." Accessed April 27, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "This Week Is Dog Bite Week." Accessed April 27, 2023.
- Insurance Information Institute. "Spotlight On: Dog Bite Liability." Accessed April 27, 2023.
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners – Center for Insurance Policy & Research. "Dog Breeds and Homeowner’s Insurance." Accessed May 1, 2023.