Does Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

dog and homeowner

Injuries from dog bites are preventable. Yet, every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are sent to the hospital by dog bites, costing an average of $400 million.

In New York State, dog owners can be held legally responsible for injuries, damages, or death caused by the actions of their dogs. If a dog has bitten you or your child, you may be able to recover compensation from the dog’s owner to help pay for medical bills and other expenses. But NYS dog bite liability laws can be complicated. To learn whether you can recover compensation, you should talk to the experienced dog bite injury lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C. We can review the dog bite incident, advise you of your rights, and build a strong case for compensation.

Is NY a “One-bite State” or a “Mixed Dog Bite” State?

Traditionally, the common law has held a dog owner liable for any damage their dog does once the owner has reason to believe the dog has a violent temperament. This standard is commonly known as the “one-bite rule,” because the owner has been put on notice of their dog’s violent temperament as soon as it has bitten someone. The term “one-bite rule” is a bit of a misnomer, as any act of aggression could potentially meet the standard it imposes. Moreover, dog owners can still be liable in many circumstances, even if the dog had not previously shown signs of aggression.

Many states and jurisdictions have since amended the old common law tradition with statutory laws that make a dog owner strictly liable for the damage their dog does. In other words, owners are responsible more or less by default when their dog hurts someone. New York follows a mixed model that combines elements of both. If a “dangerous dog” bites you, the owner is strictly liable for your medical bills. To recover other compensation, you may have to prove the dog owner was negligent in their handling of the dog.

Dangerous Dog Definition Under New York Law

New York law defines a dangerous dog as any dog that, without justification, attacks and causes physical injury or death to a:

  • Companion animal
  • Domestic animal 
  • Farm animal
  • Guide dog
  • Hearing dog
  • Person
  • Service dog

A dog is also considered dangerous in New York if it has a known “vicious propensity as evidenced by a previous unjustified attack on a person, which caused serious physical injury or death.”

There are also some situations under NY law where a dog cannot be declared dangerous, such as when:

  • The attack occurs while a person is committing a crime against the owner or on the property.
  • The dog was protecting itself, its owner, custodian, or a member of its household.
  • The dog was responding to pain or injury.
  • The person was tormenting, abusing, assaulting, or physically threatening the dog or its offspring or had in the past.

What To Do After Being Bitten By a Dog

To maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries, here’s what to do after a dog bite incident:

  • Call the police. A written police report will be helpful if you want to file a lawsuit. 
  • Cleanse the bite wound with soap and water and see a doctor to minimize damage and infection. They can also give you a rabies vaccination if they believe it is necessary.
  • Do not talk about your incident or injuries on social media.
  • Get the contact information of the dog’s owner and any witnesses.
  • Keep copies of bills, invoices, or receipts of any bite-related expenses.
  • Photograph or take a video of the dog, your bite marks or other injuries, and the incident scene.
  • Report the bite to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
  • Write down what happened for future reference and before your memories fade.

You should also call the dog bite injury attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to discuss your rights and compensation options.

Who Pays for My Dog Bite-Related Expenses?

You may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills and other expenses by filing a claim with the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company.

Typically, these policies will include personal liability coverage that will pay when a homeowner’s dog injures someone on and off the homeowner’s property. Most have minimum limits of between $100,000 and $300,000, although some homeowners choose to purchase additional protection through an umbrella policy. If a claim exceeds policy limits, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above the limit. Based on a total of 900 claims, the average insurance claim for dog bites and other dog-related injuries in New York was slightly over $68,000. The state ranked fourth in the nation in terms of overall claims, second in the total value of claims, and first in the average value of a claim.

While some insurance companies will not provide coverage for dog breeds they consider high-risk, New York bars this practice. The state enacted a new law in 2021 prohibiting insurers from “refusing to issue or renew, cancel, or charge or impose an increased premium for certain policies based solely on the breed of dog owned.” As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states, “There is no evidence that insurance claims for prohibited breeds are financially significant for insurance carriers relative to other paid losses.”

Contact the Dog Bite Attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. for Help

For over 35 years, victims of dog bites have turned to the nationally recognized team of Finz & Finz, P.C. Our attorneys have extensive experience with personal injury claims and dog bite injuries and can help you demand the compensation you deserve after an attack. We offer free consultations, so learning more about your rights comes with no risk or obligation. And because we only charge a fee when we recover compensation, you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.

Contact us today to speak with an experienced dog bite lawyer in New York. 

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.