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Yes, renters insurance covers dog bites. If you're a tenant and dog owner, we recommend purchasing renters insurance, as its personal liability protection often covers dog bites and other damages your canine might cause.
Dog breeds excluded from renters insurance coverage
Most dog breeds are covered by renters insurance personal liability protection. But several dog breeds are excluded by insurers, meaning they will not cover the cost of injuries or damages caused by that dog. Renters insurance companies will exclude these dog breeds listed below because their risk of resulting in a claim is too high to insure.
Breeds commonly excluded from liability coverage
|Akitas||Great Danes||American Bulldogs|
|Alaskan Malamutes||Pit Bulls||Beaucerons|
|Chow Chows||Presa Canarios||Keeshonds|
|German Shepherds||Siberian Huskies||Belgian Malinois|
|Staffordshire Terriers||Wolf-Hybrids||Rhodesian Ridgebacks|
*Dog breeds are listed in no particular order.
Most of the dogs listed above tend to be medium or large breeds, as well as "confident" and "loyal" in nature, according to their American Kennel Club profiles. While some might be feared or considered more aggressive than others, this is not the case for many, such as the Siberian Husky. Regardless of a dog breed's temperament, their size and strength undoubtedly impacts the harm they could do — even accidentally. In turn, that likely affects the frequency and severity of claims when it comes to renters insurance.
All renters should find out definitively whether their dog, or a dog they are considering getting, is covered by their insurer. Some renters insurance companies won't even offer coverage to renters who own certain dog breeds. Other insurance companies don't ask the breed of a policyholder's dog, but they do ask whether the dog has previously bitten or attacked anyone. If a dog has, that might prevent the renter from getting a policy.
Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania restrict insurers from denying coverage because of a particular dog breed, and New York is considering following suit.
Do not lie about or neglect to notify your renters insurance company if you purchase an excluded dog breed, or if your dog (regardless of breed) bites or attacks someone. If Fido causes injuries or damages, that failure as a policyholder could be grounds for denying a claim. An insurance company might even choose not to renew or cancel your policy.
Renters insurance on average is relatively cheap but a cancellation might be especially damaging because it is tracked in a database and other insurance companies would be aware of that in the future, potentially resulting in higher rates. To avoid that situation, simply shop for a comparably priced policy that doesn't exclude your dog breed — you should not go without renters insurance.
Filing an insurance claim for a dog bite
A personal liability claim for a dog bite should be treated like any other renters insurance liability claim, whether it be for an apartment or a single-family home. As soon as someone is bitten and harmed, a policyholder should notify their renters insurance company. What happens after that depends on the injured person's medical bills or damage claims.
If the injured person did not have to go to the hospital and bandaged a minor injury themselves, a dog owner will likely not have to file a claim. In fact, depending on their deductible, they might not be able to file one. However, if the person bitten by the policyholder's dog needs to go to the hospital to get stitches, reconstructive plastic surgery or other medical attention, the cost will likely warrant a liability claim.
In that circumstance, a bite victim's insurance provider might work directly with the policyholder's insurance company, or sue the dog owner. No matter which situation a dog owner finds his or herself in, their renters insurance personal liability protection will cover the costs up to the limit of their policy.
Dog bite statistics
About 77.8 million dogs owned as pets in the U.S., according to a 2015-2016 survey by the American Pets Products Association and they result in a surprising number of bites. Roughly 4.5 million people are bitten each year in the U.S. and about 885,000 require medical attention — half of whom are children and many result in liability insurance claims.
A collaborative study by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm in 2015 found one-third of all homeowners insurance liability dollars paid out was related to dog bites, totaling more than $750 million. The study also found that while the number of dog bite claims decreased 7.2% from 2014 to 2015, the average cost per claim rose 16%, to $37,214. The average cost also rose 94% between 2003 and 2015.
Although no data was available for renters insurance liability claims, the national data on homeowners insurance liability claims is likely some indicator of what it might be like. The average cost per claim for a renter and homeowner is probably very similar.
Are other pets covered?
Select dog breeds aren't the only animals excluded from the personal liability coverage of renters insurance. Exotic, farm or saddle animals are also excluded from almost all renters insurance liability coverage, regardless of a company's rules about any dog breeds. Some of these animals include anything with hooves, reptiles, primates or fowl.
Sources: Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)