Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg is an expert on insurance and insurance coverage and receives many inquiries about insurance issues from both the public and other lawyers. Also, Mr. Goldberg’s office gets great results in dog attack cases because he handles them with special care and consideration. Recently, I received the following question: “In getting a homeowners policy on the new house, we were asked the breed of the dogs. One is a German Shep/Akita/Chow mix which got the dogs excluded from the policy. Are you aware of a good insurance company that will write a dog bite policy?”
In fact, many dog owners are surprised that their particular dog breed is either not covered or is excluded under their Homeowners or Renters policies. More and more insurers are excluding they well known “biting breeds” such as pit bulls, Rottweilers and German Shepherds. This is no small problem because the liability settlements and verdicts on dog bites can be huge and wipe out a family’s assets. This office recently took on an arguably million dollar dog bite case only to find that the defendant’s homeowner’s policy had an “Animal Liability Exclusion.”
The truth is that many reputable insurance companies still insure these dogs, but it is not easy to discover whether you will be covered until you actually apply for insurance. Further, many insurers are not looking to the breed so much as they are looking for a training certificate or a clean record of no bites. Of course, in any event, it is a great idea to obtain some obedience training whenever you own a known biting breed dog. Many very responsible dog owners omit this precaution because their dog is so sweet and would not hurt a fly. However, many responsible owners do not understand that that dogs may bite because they are territorial or protecting a family member. So, liability insurance is a must.
The best advice is to contact an independent insurance agent in your area. If possible, find an agent that is familiar with “dog bite” insurance policies. A quick internet search reveals that certain agencies are more qualified than others in this area. In fact, if a “major” insurer will not insure your dog, there are reasonably priced separate insurers who will issue just the dog owner liability portion of the policy. Just like anything, do your homework! A good independent agent is very likely to find you savings in other areas which may even fund the extra premium for you “dog bite” insurance!