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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

Posted on November 1, 2021 in Dog Bites

A dog attack can send a victim to the hospital with serious wounds that require thousands of dollars in medical treatments. Knowing who is responsible for paying for a dog bite injury in California can help you seek reimbursement if you find yourself in this situation. In many cases, the pet owner’s homeowners insurance policy will cover the damages caused by a dog, including dog bite injuries.

Who Pays for a Dog Bite Injury in California?

California is a strict dog bite liability state. According to California Civil Code Section 3342, you can hold a pet owner liable (financially accountable) for a dog bite injury even without proof of fault or negligence. In states that use a one-bite law, on the other hand, dog bite victims must show that the pet owner knew about the dog’s propensity for viciousness – i.e. that the dog had previously bitten another victim in the past.

In California, the owner or controller of a dog that bites someone will be strictly responsible for paying for the victim’s related medical bills, lost wages, legal expenses and other fees. In most cases, a liable pet owner will pay through his or her homeowners or renter’s insurance policy rather than out of pocket. This is because dogs and other pets are classified as property for insurance reasons.

A standard homeowners insurance policy in California covers dog bites and other injuries caused by a dog, such as a dog jumping on someone and knocking them down. Homeowners insurance covers the policyholder’s liability for any injuries or deaths that occur on the property. Homeowners insurance will also cover dog bite injuries that occur outside of the home. As a type of property, a dog is a covered liability no matter where it goes.

What To Do After a Dog Bite

If you suffer a dog bite injury in California, try to remain calm and document the incident. Take pictures of your injuries and the dog, for example, and write down the pet owner’s name and contact information. Report the dog bite to your local Animal Control Center right away. This can keep track of the number of times the dog has bitten someone, as well as lead to steps to make sure that the dog does not have rabies, such as a mandatory pet quarantine. Go to a hospital for professional medical care without delay and follow your doctor’s treatment plan. 

How To File an Insurance Claim for a Dog Bite Injury

As soon as you can, call the pet owner’s homeowners insurance company to file a damage claim. The insurance company will assign someone called an insurance claims adjuster to your case. The adjuster will call you shortly after the dog bite injury and ask you questions about the attack. Keep your answers short and simple, and never admit any fault for the incident. If the adjuster asks for a recorded statement, politely refuse to give one and say that you will submit a written statement instead. 

If the insurance company accepts your dog bite injury claim, make sure the settlement offered is fair and adequate based on the extent of your injuries and your future medical needs. You may need to consult with a Los Angeles dog bite lawyer to verify the value of your case. A lawyer can help you present a counteroffer and negotiate back and forth with an insurance company to collect fair compensation.

When To Contact a Dog Bite Injury Attorney

Homeowners insurance companies are always looking for ways to improve their profits, including minimizing claimant payouts. Keep this in mind when negotiating with an insurance provider. If the pet owner’s insurer rejects your claim, offers too little for your losses or the pet owner does not have insurance, contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options. You may be able to file a lawsuit against the pet owner for negligence, for example, or seek recovery through a landlord or property owner. An attorney can review your case and guide you through the legal process for the best possible results.