First, you need to think about how to help make sure your dog doesn't bite anyone, such as by:
- Putting up signs warning about the presence of the dog
- Making sure fencing is secure, that is, there are no holes in it or tunnels underneath it, and the gate latch works
- Keeping your dog on a leash while you're out in public
Next, think worst-case scenario: How will you pay the victim's damages? Insurance is your best means of protection. Talk to your insurance company about whether your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy covers not only dog bites in general, but if it covers your breed of dog.
Dog bites cost insurance companies millions of dollars each year. They pay legal fees - they usually hire attorneys to defend their insureds if they're sued. And, they have to pay the victims' damages if they win, including medical costs, lost wages and "pain and suffering." It's not uncommon for an insurance company to refuse to cover certain breeds of dogs, especially those considered by experts to be the "most dangerous." These breeds include pit bulls, rottweilers and chow chows, just to name a few.
It's also common for many insurance companies to increase the insurance premiums or cancel the policy altogether after an owner's dog bites a victim and costs the company money.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do we have a dog bite law in our state?
- My insurance agent said my homeowner's policy would cover any injuries my dog might cause, but now it says that it won't cover a bite victim's damages or even defend me in court. Is there anything I can do?
- I had signs up on my fence and I repeatedly told the neighbor kids not to come into my yard unless I was there to make sure my dog wouldn't hurt them. One child didn't listen and jumped over my fence. My dog bit him. Am I liable? Isn't the child liable for his own injuries because he didn't listen to my warnings?