You may think you have the friendliest dog in the world, but you never know what could happen. It might get startled on a walk, or it may take a disliking to a worker that comes to your home.
If your dog does bite someone, you could be liable for their medical bills or other costs. Your home insurance policy may cover you for this liability.
What's the Law On Liability for Dog Bites?
A dog's owner is responsible for any harm their dog causes, including bites. The degree of liability will depend on where the bite happened and what you could have done to stop it.
Let’s consider some specific scenarios.
Away From Your Home
If you're away from your home, you're at the most risk. A dog owner should have their dog under direct control at all times. This includes following local leash laws. Unless your dog is directly provoked and you have no chance to intervene, you will probably be responsible for any bites the pooch causes.
In Your Yard
Your dog is generally free to roam in your yard, subject to any leash and fence laws in your town. However, there's also the expectation that a deliveryman, meter reader, or some other person might have a legitimate reason to enter your yard. They do have a reasonable expectation of being able to do their job without being bitten, and you may be found liable if they are. You can reduce your liability by posting clear Beware Of Dog signs around your fence and at each gate.
In Your Home
Just as with human self-defense, a dog can bite an intruder in self-defense. You likely won’t be liable here. However, if you've invited someone in, you have a responsibility to protect them from bites.
What Insurance Covers Dog Bites?
Your home insurance policy will usually include liability coverage that will cover many dog bites. Read your policy to determine if it would apply only around your home or also when you make trips away from home. Also, be aware of possible exclusions. For example, if you were violating a leash law, there's a chance you might not be covered. Finally, you may want to make sure that your liability limits are sufficient to cover both your home and your other assets, in the event something does happen.