Yes, renter’s insurance usually covers dog bites. This means that compensation for the victim’s losses, up to the policy limit, will generally be paid by the insurer, rather than by the policyholder. That said, it is important to note that some policies
- may not cover dog bites at all,
- may only cover bites that happen inside your apartment, and
- may specifically exclude certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls.
You should review your particular renter’s insurance policy closely.
Will my renter’s insurance cover dog bites?
Most renter’s insurance policies will cover dog bites. However, enough policies do not that it is worth double-checking your current policy or closely reviewing one that you are considering. Many renter’s insurance policies also limit their coverage to certain circumstances or even to certain dog breeds.
It is also important to note the policy limits. This is how much money the insurance company will pay before you become personally liable for a dog bite.
Some renter’s insurance policies limit when they will cover your dog. Many policies exclude certain breeds. A few policies limit the circumstances that they will cover, and may refuse to cover dog bites that happen:
- in public,
- in dog parks,
- off your landlord’s premises, or
- outside your apartment.
If you have a dog, you should review your renter’s insurance so you know whether you are covered. If you have a dog and are getting renter’s insurance quotes from insurance agents, you should review and compare the available policies and get one that covers you.
If you have renter’s insurance and are considering getting a dog, you should review your coverage and make changes, if necessary.
A dog bite attorney can help you understand the coverage you need and file a dog bite claim, if necessary.
How does this liability insurance work?
Renter’s insurance provides liability insurance. This covers personal injuries to other people and property damage that you cause. The amount that the insurance company will pay, though, is limited.
Once the policy limit has been reached, you will be responsible for any unpaid compensation. If your dog bites someone and causes serious injuries, the victim may be entitled to more than your insurer will cover. The victim can then pursue you, personally, for the unpaid amount.
Pet owners who do not have liability insurance to cover dog bite injuries face personal liability for all of the victim’s losses. This means they can be sued and pay out-of-pocket for the victim’s:
- medical bills,
- lost wages and earning capacity,
- pain and suffering, and
- damage to personal property.
What are some good policy limits?
A good policy limit is one that will cover all of the damages from the dog bite. Factors in assessing a renter’s insurance policy’s limits are:
- your financial ability to pay higher premiums for more personal liability coverage,
- your willingness to pay for the peace of mind that comes with a higher limit, and
- how likely an attack by your dog would cause serious injuries.
Generally, renter’s insurance policies come with a liability limit of $100,000. This means that your renter’s insurance company will pay the first $100,000 in damages that a dog bite victim would suffer.
In 2021, the national average cost of an insurance claim for a dog attack was $49,025.1 However, it was higher in states that have a higher standard of living and steeper costs for medical attention. In New York, for example, the average cost for a dog bite claim was $68,203.2
While the average costs are well below the standard policy limit for renter’s insurance, half of dog bites are worse than average. When choosing a renter’s insurance policy to cover your dog, you should always compare the costs of one with a standard policy limit to one that has a higher limit. Paying the extra premium for the extra coverage may be worth it.
Are certain dog breeds excluded from pet liability coverage?
Some renter’s insurance policies exclude coverage for specific dog breeds. Some of the most common breeds of dogs to be excluded are:
- Pit bulls,
- Great Danes,
- German Shepherds,
- Doberman Pinschers,
- Siberian Huskies,
- Staffordshire Terriers,
- American Bulldogs,
- Chow Chows, and
- Presa Canarios.
These breeds are excluded from coverage because they are more likely to bite someone than other breeds. While individual dogs of these breeds may be docile and gentle, unfortunately, insurance companies rely on generalizations about the breed.
Some renter’s insurance policies may provide coverage for these breeds, but at a higher cost.
Some states, like New York3 and Nevada,4 have passed laws that forbid breed restrictions. In these states, insurance companies cannot exclude certain breeds or charge higher premiums to cover them.
How is renter’s insurance coverage different from pet insurance?
Renter’s insurance coverage is a form of liability insurance. It can cover the bodily injuries and property damage caused by your dog. It can pay for the costs of your dog:
- biting someone,
- knocking down and hurting a child, or
- destroying your landlord’s property.
Pet insurance, on the other hand, covers veterinary bills. It is similar to your health insurance policy. It will pay for the costs if your dog:
- gets hit by a car,
- gets sick, or
- needs preventative veterinary care.
Basically, renter’s insurance covers pet damage while pet insurance covers damage to your pet.
If I own my home, will homeowner’s insurance cover a dog bite?
Generally, yes. Homeowner’s insurance includes liability insurance. That liability insurance covers injuries that you cause through your negligence, including dog bites by your pet.
Importantly, that liability insurance often stretches beyond the home. While renter’s insurance may limit its coverage to your apartment, your homeowner’s insurance covers dog bites that happen elsewhere, too.
However, it is still important to check your home insurance’s liability policy for exclusions and limitations. All dog owners should make note of the policy limits, as well.
- Insurance Information Institute, “Spotlight on Dog Bite Liability,” (March 29, 2022).
- New York Senate Bill 4254 (2021-2022).
- Nevada Senate Bill 103 (2021).