On March 29th one of President Biden's dogs 'Major', a 3-year-old German Shepherd, was involved in a second biting incident with a National Park Service Employee, in the month of March. The employee was checked up by the medical units at the white house, and returned to work without injury. The first of the biting incidents happened on March 8th, where Major bit one of the white house security personnel.
According to Deborah Coleman, Associate Managing Director at Burns & Wilcox, "Anyone with a dog in their home assumes liability for the dogs actions."
Even the most calm and trained dogs can have moments where they lash out and bite somebody. Luckily, Homeowners insurance can offer protection from lawsuits arising from dog bites in most policies. Homeowners should consider broad limits to ensure adequate coverage and anyone owning a dog should also have a Personal Liability Umbrella in place.
Dog bites send nearly 316,200 victims to hospital emergency departments per year (898 per day). (Holmquist, L. (Thomson Reuters), and Elixhauser, A. (AHRQ). Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008. November 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb101.pdf)
Dog bite claims averaged out to about $43,653 in 2019 and dog bite damages have totaled in the tens of thousands. Settlements have gone up as high as in the millions for dog bites and it can also affect a homeowner's future insurability.
Homeowners insurance may vary, depending on carrier, so it would be wise to review every detail with your Agent or Broker to better understand what is and what isn't covered.
Personal Liability Umbrella Insurance covers the insured over and above any underlying insurance coverage such as Homeowners Insurance. As a home owner, anyone with Homeowners Insurance should have a Personal Liability Umbrella in force anyway, regardless of dog ownership. Personal Liability Umbrella's cover the cost of court fees, lawyers cost, and pay-out to the party suing you.
There are many instances, other than dog bites, that a Personal Umbrella policy would kick in and pick up the cost for legal actions taken against you for things you are being held personally liable for such as auto accidents, people getting injured in your home, your children running their bicycles into the neighbors car, friends leaving your dinner party intoxicated and causing accidents, and many more.
Umbrellas start at $1 MILL in coverage and coverage increases in increments of $1 MILL thereafter. The cost of a $1 MILL Personal Umbrella is about $170 per year in UT with other states averaging at about $250 per year in premium for $1 MILL in Personal Liability Coverage. The cost of the average lawyer is about $350 per hour in UT with rates being as high as $500 per hour in other states.
Personal Umbrella Insurance is generally affordable; however many dog & home owners are unaware that they could need it or assume it will be unaffordable. It is much more unaffordable to cover a lawsuit out of pocket than it is to pay a flat yearly fee of roughly $200 per year to cover yourself for this exposure. Typically, when a lawsuit is taking place, it's not common to play out over a couple of hours or days time, instead, most lawsuits take months if not years to resolve piling up costs for you, the insured, to cover thousands of dollars of expenses yourself. Having an Umbrella in place would elevate that cost to you.
The coverage from your policy can still extend to your dog even if the dog is outside of your home, and that doesn't just include being on your front lawn. For example, if your dog ran outside your home and your neighborhood and bit somebody outside a restaurant or at a park, that would all be included inside that policy, you would be covered.
In January, a 3-year-old girl was attacked by a dog inside a Texas restaurant and required stitches to her face.12 The dog was reportedly wearing a service dog vest in the restaurant. Pet owners who walk their dogs or bring them to public places should know that their Homeowners Insurance and Personal Umbrella Insurance can extend to dog-bite incidents that take place outside of their homes.
Insurance companies often impose limits on coverage for certain dog breeds or refuse to insure homeowners who have dogs on that list, which can make it more difficult to find coverage. German Shepherds like the Bidens’ dogs, for example, are often categorized as a higher-risk breed for Homeowners Insurance purposes. Dogs with a history of biting incidents could also be excluded from Homeowners Insurance policy coverage and in some cases, making the dog owner ineligible for Personal Umbrella insurance.
A man accused of stealing a golf cart in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2019 was awarded a $100,000 settlement from the city for extensive injuries he reportedly sustained from a police dog attack.
Last June, a Winnipeg dog owner faced a lawsuit from the Attorney General of Canada after the dog charged a Canada Post mail carrier, allegedly causing injury and trauma to an extent that rendered the postal worker unable to work or engage in daily tasks of living for an extended period
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), dog owners can help mitigate the risk of dog bites by spaying and neutering their pets, socializing them early and often, never leaving them unsupervised (especially with children), keeping them from common triggers for aggressive behavior like unfamiliar places, crowds and loud noises, and seeking the assistance of a professional dog trainer immediately if their dog exhibits any signs of aggression.