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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

If you or somebody you care about has sustained a bite injury caused by another person’s dog in the Seattle area, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. In Washington, there is a strict liability dog bite law in place. This means that a dog owner will be held liable for any injuries caused by their dog biting someone else, regardless of whether or not that dog has ever bitten anyone before or shown a propensity for aggression. However, will the dog owner’s homeowners insurance carrier cover these expenses?

Homeowners Insurance Should Cover a Dog Bite Incident in Washington

When we examine Washington state law, we can see that this is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite incidents (RCW 16.08.040). This means that a dog owner will typically be held liable for any injury their dog causes when biting another person, so long as the other victim was lawfully allowed in the location where the bite occurred. The owner will be held responsible for the bite injuries regardless of whether or not the dog has bitten anybody before or whether the dog has shown a propensity for violence in the past.

Most homeowners insurance policies provide liability coverage in the event a dog attacks and injuries another individual. However, it is important to understand that every homeowner’s insurance policy is different, and these policies must be carefully reviewed before there is an assumption about whether or not a dog bite will be covered. 

In some cases, an insurance company will provide dog bite coverage, but not for certain breeds (ex. pitbulls, rottweilers, etc.). Other insurance companies may look at each dog on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not the dog is dangerous. If a dog has a history of biting individuals, and this history is documented, the insurance carrier may charge a higher premium or exclude that particular dog from coverage.

Homeowners insurance policies typically provide dog bite coverage through the personal liability section of the policy, and coverage usually ranges from around $100,000 to $500,000. However, in the event a dog bite injury claim exceeds the policy limit, the dog owner could be held personally responsible for remaining damages above that amount through a civil personal injury lawsuit filed by the dog bite victim.

If a dog owner does not have homeowners insurance, or if the policy does not provide liability coverage for a dog bite or attack, recovering compensation is immensely more challenging. The dog bite victim will have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner to recover compensation. If the case is successful, there will be a judgment against the dog owner’s assets.

Are There Other Insurance Options for Victims?

There may be other options for recovering compensation if the dog owner does not have homeowners insurance. In some cases, renter’s insurance will also provide personal injury liability coverage for dog bite incidents. However, renter’s insurance is not required in the state of Washington, so it may be necessary to conduct a thorough investigation into the insurance policies of the dog bite owner when moving forward with the claim.

We strongly encourage you to reach out to a skilled dog bite injury lawyer in Seattle who can help examine the facts of the case and work with you towards recovering compensation for your injuries and other expenses caused by the dog bite.