Understanding Property Insurance and Dog Bite Attacks
When a person suffers personal injury from a dog bite on the owner’s property, what should they do next? This article aims to present information on the difference between dog bite liability insurance claims and personal injury litigation for damages.
Dog Bite Liability Insurance
When it comes to personal injury cases involving dog bites, New Jersey state law abides by a doctrine of liability determination commonly referred to as “strict liability.” Under these statutes, the owner of the dog is often deemed liable for all damages incurred by the bite victim, provided that the victim was peacefully conducting himself or herself in a place where they were legally allowed to be and they were not attempting to provoke or attack the dog or owner in any way.
The nature of the state’s dog bite liability laws means that dog owners are typically liable for any injuries their dog causes to another person, even if the owner took all reasonable precautions in the moments leading up to the bite. As long as the dog bite victim was not trespassing or antagonizing the dog, they are likely to be eligible to receive financial compensation for expenses and damages incurred as a result if they elect to pursue civil litigation against the dog owner.
From the perspective of a home insurance provider, it can be risky to provide an insurance policy to an individual that owns a dog, especially if that breed of dog has a reputation for being vicious or dangerous. Pit bulls are a contemporary example of a dog breed that is often excluded from qualifying a homeowner for an insurance policy.
It is critically important for any dog owner to carry a home insurance policy that specifically covers dog bite injuries that occur on the property. According to data gathered by the Insurance Information Institute, Illinois registered 611 dog bite claims in 2021, with an average cost of $49,981 per claim. This equates to a total of $30.5 million in damages claims from dog bites in the state of New Jersey alone.
Liability Insurance vs. Personal Injury Litigation for Dog Bite Injuries
Because dog bites that occur on the owner’s property are often rolled into the liability coverage of the insurance policy, meaning that if a dog bites someone on the owner’s property and causes personal injury, the insurance provider will pay the medical bills of the victim and any legal expenses incurred. However, there are cases in which a personal injury attorney can help victims recover additional compensation or navigate conflicts that arise with the insurance provider.
Compensatory damages are the kind of financial compensation that dog bite victims commonly imagine when they discuss the litigation process with their personal injury attorney. This type of court-appointed award is meant to “compensate” the dog bite victim for any expenses they have realized as a result of the dog bite. This often includes the costs of medical care, lost wages from time taken off work including potential future losses of income, “pain and suffering,” and quality of life changes that may inhibit the individual from returning to the same level of functioning that they knew before the incident.
Punitive damages are the other common type of compensation awarded by civil personal injury courts. Punitive damages are meant to “punish” the dog owner in cases where their negligence is clearly reckless and dangerous. Punitive damages are not awarded in every personal injury case, but reserved only for those cases where gross levels of negligence are apparent.