Man’s Best Friend can sometimes be the worst enemy of homeowners insurance underwriters. That’s because owing a particular type of dog can raise your insurance premiums, or disqualify you from coverage altogether, at least with some companies. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2014, costing more than $530 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the III found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 4.7 percent in 2014, the average cost per claim for the year was up 15 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 in 2014, compared with $27,862 in 2013. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.
Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000). If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above that amount. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents.
So, which dogs are being blacklisted? According to most insurance industry experts, these breeds top the list: Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chows, Great Danes, Presa Canarios, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and Wolf-hybrids.
Your best bet is to check with your insurance professional to see if you and your dog are covered.