Dog bites account for an alarming amount of injuries to people: physical injuries, emotional injuries and financial injuries. In 2013, according to a State Farm Insurance and Insurance Information Institute report about dog bite claims:
- 4.5 million people were bitten by dogs in the United States.
- 885,000 injuries required medical attention, of which 50 % affected children.
- 17,359 injured people made dog bite claims to insurance companies, costing the liability insurance companies $483 million. The average claim in full paid the victim $27,862.
- In New Jersey, State Farm Insurance awarded $4.3 million to victims of 86 dog bite claims.
- New Jersey ranked the 15th highest state for State Farm Insurance dog bite claims.
According to the APPA National Pet Owners Survey taken in 2013 in the USA, 83 million dogs are pets in 56.7 million American households. The statistics show that there are a large number of dogs and a high cost for dog attacks. Consequently, an understanding about what types of insurance coverage are available for dog bite claims in New Jersey is important for both dog owners and non-owners.
Types of Insurance Coverage for Dog Bite Claims
The person bitten may have medical insurance to pay for their own medical bills. This policy may be considered the first (primary) insurance for medical bill payment for dog bites. However, there are several avenues a dog bite victim may be able to take in getting compensated for those medical bills, permanent scarring, other injuries and pain and suffering.
The dog owner may have any combination of insurance to provide liability and medical coverage to victims of dog bites. Any of these policies may be considered secondary insurance, depending on the circumstances of the dog bite:
- Homeowners insurance, condo insurance or co-op insurance
- Renters insurance
- Automobile insurance
- Canine liability coverage (“dog owner liability insurance”)
- Landlord insurance
- Business liability insurance (for injuries at place of business)
The dog owner's insurance policy is very important for dog bite claims. For example, a dog owner's homeowners insurance policy should have a liability coverage section which includes “medical payments to others” and “personal liability”. The medical payments to others provision can pay for the victim's medical bills while the personal liability coverage can give the dog bite victim payment for bodily injury and property damage established through a claim or lawsuit. An umbrella insurance policy is optional insurance which extends the amount of liability protection to $1 million and up.
Potential Issues Regarding Coverage After a Claim
New Jersey has a strict liability dog bite statute, N.J.S.A. 4:19-6, which favors the dog bite victim. However, there are many potential issues regarding coverage after a claim is made:
- Does the dog owner have insurance liability coverage for the pet? Some homeowners insurance companies do not cover certain dog breeds or may limit coverage for a dog who has a history of dog bites or attacks.
- The dog owner's insurance may only provide the person bitten medical coverage for a specific period of time. So, a lawsuit to get future coverage for medical bills, or for future surgery, may be necessary.
- The dog owner's insurance has maximum limits for total payments to the injured and the bills may exceed those limits.
- The dog owner's insurance may exclude coverage for certain people if they are bitten by the dog: the dog owner and their family members living in the home or the veterinarian.
- The dog owner's insurance policy has certain exclusions which should be discussed with an attorney. For instance, what happens if the person injured is a dog sitter or dog walker?
- If the dog bite victim is a mail carrier, he or she may also pursue workers' compensation in addition to their dog bite injury claim.
Contact Us about Insurance Coverage for Your Dog Bite Claim
The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca are experienced dog bite lawyers, knowledgeable about the NJ dog bite laws. Partner Carmine Villani has been an instructor to other NJ attorneys on handling a dog bite claim on multiple occasions. Dog bite victims can have costly bills and emotional stress from the bodily injury. Since a dog bite is a personal injury there are no legal fees until we recover for you. Call Villani & DeLuca today at (732) 709-7757 to speak with Mr. Villani about your case.