As the weather changes and more people get back to outdoor exercising and activities, there are perils they may not realize they face. One of these perils is any loose dogs that may be in the area. Even dogs who may not normally be aggressive, have been known to bite if they perceive danger from someone entering their territory. Unfortunately, the danger they think they perceive may be your neighbors who are out for an evening walk or run. If you own one a dog, this could end up costing you dearly if you do not take the required steps to ensure your pet does not pose a risk.
Is Your Dog Entitled To One Bite?
While that may seem to be a silly question, if you live in one of the eighteen states that have a one bite rule in place, you may not be liable for any damages caused to the first person your dog bites. This is because in these states you and anyone else who is connected to your dog is protected from any liability which results from the first injury be caused by your dog. There are exceptions to this, and you still may be able to be charged by a personal injury lawyer for one or more of the following:
- Premises liability
- Leash law violation, or the violation of other municipal rules
- Outrageous and reckless behavior involving a dog
- Intentional conduct involving a dog and more
Dog bites may be more common than you think. Statistics from ten years ago show more than 4.5 million dog bites were reported in this country alone, and that does not include those not reported, or did not require medical treatment. This number continues to grow, and the severity of injuries varies from person to person.
Is This Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance?
Most dog owners who also have homeowners or renters insurance may assume a dog bite would be covered under their policy, but this is not always true. Dog bite related insurance claims cost the insurance company more than $490 million in 2013. Because of this, some companies no longer have this coverage under their policies and those that do may exclude certain pure breeds of dogs seen to be highly aggressive. Some of these breeds are:
- Pit Bulls
- German Shepherds
- Chow Chows
- Doberman Pinschers
- Mastiffs, and more
Even if your policy includes coverage, you may not have enough coverage to cover the entire claim. While most dog bites cases average a little over $26,000 per claim, if there are substantial injuries, you could be facing huge multiples of that amount. Even with homeowners coverage, you could be held liable for any amount exceeding your policy limits. This alone should be an incentive to ensure you never have to face this type of case.
What Can You Do?
As a pet owner, you always want to ensure you keep your pet under your care and control at all times. This will not only help to ensure the safety of anyone who comes in contact with your pet, but it will help to make sure your pet remains safe as well.
Know the leash laws in your city and state. While only Michigan and Pennsylvania, require your dogs be confined to a leash any time they are off your property, there are many local ordinances that may state this. It is up to you to know what is required in your area.
If you have a dog on your property who is allowed to roam, or play, outside in the yard, always post beware of dog signs. This is important even if your dog has never bitten anyone. This serves as notice to anyone entering your area that there is a dog on the premises.
There are many more steps you may choose to take to protect you and your pet from the chances of being involved in a lawsuit. Doing so may not only reduce the amount of financial liability you may incur, but you may also save the life of your pet. Just know the ultimate sentence the court may choose to levy against your pet if they are deemed to be vicious is death.