The Role of Insurance in Dog Bite Injury Claims: Insights from a Personal Injury Lawyer

    Just like any other animal attack, dog bite injuries can be a traumatic and devastating experience for victims. In addition to the physical and emotional pain, encounters with dangerous dogs often result in serious injuries, emotional distress, bills from medical care, disfigurement, and other potential long-term effects. When pursuing a dog bite injury claim, understanding the role of insurance becomes crucial. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of insurance coverage in dog bite injury claims from the perspective of a personal injury lawyer.

    What role does homeowner’s insurance play in dog bite injury claims?

    dog bite injuries lawyer

    Homeowner’s insurance can be relevant to bite injuries in different ways, depending on the unique situation of each case. Here are some of the ways that homeowner’s insurance often functions in these situations

    1. A primary source of coverage

    Most dog bite injury claims are covered under homeowner's insurance policies. Homeowners typically obtain insurance coverage to protect themselves and their property from liabilities arising from accidents and incidents that occur on their premises. Dog bites fall within the purview of such coverage.

    Homeowner's insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages suffered by the victim. This coverage can prove invaluable in ensuring that victims receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.

    2. Liability and exclusions

    While homeowner's insurance typically covers dog bite injuries, certain policy exclusions may limit or deny coverage. These exclusions often involve specific dog breeds that insurance companies deem high-risk, such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. Some policies may also exclude coverage for dogs with a history of aggressive behavior or those previously involved in biting incidents.

    It is important for personal injury lawyers to carefully examine the terms and conditions of the homeowner's insurance policy to determine if any exclusions apply. In cases where coverage is denied based on exclusions, alternative legal strategies may need to be pursued, such as filing a lawsuit directly against the dog owner.

    3. Seeking compensation beyond homeowner's insurance

    In certain situations, the dog owner may not have homeowner's insurance or may have inadequate coverage to fully compensate the victim. In such cases, personal injury lawyers may explore other avenues for seeking compensation.

    For instance, if the dog owner is a renter, their landlord's insurance policy may provide coverage for dog bite injuries that occurred on the rented premises. Additionally, if the dog owner has personal umbrella insurance, it may offer additional coverage beyond the limits of their homeowner's policy.

    4. Negligence and dog bite injury claims

    In Illinois, a dog owner is responsible for the consequences of unprovoked attacks, regardless if the dog owner was aware that his dog was capable of such an attack. Be that as it may, it is still prudent to preserve evidence to prove that the dog owner was negligent in handling their pet. Personal injury lawyers play a vital role in investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident and gathering evidence to support their client's claim.

    Evidence may include witness statements, photographs of the injuries and the scene, medical records, and any prior reports or complaints regarding the dog's behavior. This evidence can help demonstrate that the dog owner failed to take reasonable precautions or ignored warnings about the dog's aggressive tendencies.

    5. Negotiating with insurance companies

    Dealing with insurance companies can be a complex and challenging process. While insurance adjusters may seem helpful, their primary objective is to protect the interests of the insurance company. They may attempt to minimize the victim's claim or shift blame onto the victim, alleging provocation or trespassing.

    Personal injury lawyers advocate for their clients' rights, ensuring they are not taken advantage of during the negotiation process. They have the legal knowledge and negotiation skills necessary to counter the tactics employed by insurance adjusters and pursue a fair settlement that adequately compensates the victim for their injuries and losses.

    6. Litigation as a last resort

    In some instances, reaching a fair settlement through negotiation with the insurance company may prove difficult. In such cases, personal injury lawyers may advise their clients to pursue litigation by filing a lawsuit against the dog owner.

    Litigation allows victims to present their case before a court of law, where a judge and jury can evaluate the evidence and determine liability

    If negotiations with the insurance company fail to yield a fair settlement, the personal injury lawyer may recommend filing a lawsuit against the dog owner. Here's a brief overview of the litigation process:

    • Complaint: The personal injury lawyer will draft and file a complaint, which outlines the victim's claims and the legal basis for seeking compensation. The complaint will be served to the dog owner, who becomes the defendant in the case.

    • Discovery: Both parties engage in the discovery process, where they exchange relevant information, evidence, and documents related to the case. This may include medical records, photographs, witness statements, and expert opinions. Depositions, where witnesses are questioned under oath, may also take place.

    • Pre-trial motions: Before the trial, the personal injury lawyer may file various motions, such as motions to exclude evidence or dismiss the case. The defendant's lawyer may also file motions in response.

    • Settlement negotiations: Throughout the litigation process, settlement negotiations may continue. In some cases, the insurance company may be more willing to negotiate a fair settlement as the trial date approaches.

    • Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial. Both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witness testimony before a judge and/or jury. The personal injury lawyer advocates for the victim, presenting a compelling case to establish liability and seek appropriate compensation.

    • Verdict and judgment: Following the trial, the judge or jury will render a verdict. If the victim prevails, a judgment will be entered, specifying the amount of compensation awarded.

    • Appeals: Either party may choose to appeal the decision if they believe there were errors or unfairness during the trial. The appeals process involves presenting arguments before a higher court to review the lower court's decision.


    Other potential sources of compensation

    In some cases, if the dog owner is found to be financially incapable of fully compensating the victim, personal injury lawyers may explore additional sources of compensation. For instance, if the incident occurred on commercial property, the business owner's insurance may come into play. Alternatively, if a third party was partially responsible for the incident (e.g., a dog walker or property manager), they may also share liability.

    The role of insurance in dog bite injury claims is crucial for victims seeking fair compensation. Homeowner's insurance often provides coverage for these incidents, but policy exclusions and inadequate coverage can present challenges. Personal injury lawyers play a vital role in navigating insurance claims, negotiating with insurance companies, and pursuing litigation when necessary.

    Understanding the insurance landscape and the litigation process empowers personal injury lawyers to fight for their clients' rights and ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. By leveraging their expertise and experience, these lawyers strive to alleviate the financial and emotional burdens faced by dog bite injury victims and help them move forward on the path to recovery.

    What should homeowners do?

    dog bite injury claim (1)

    When it comes to protecting yourself from potential dog bite injury claims, it is essential to ensure you have adequate coverage under your homeowner's insurance policy. Here are some important considerations and coverage recommendations for consumers:

    1. Review your homeowner's insurance policy: Take the time to carefully review the terms and conditions of your homeowner's insurance policy. Pay close attention to any clauses or exclusions related to dog bite injuries. Understand the specific breeds that may be excluded or any requirements regarding the dog's behavior history. If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to your insurance agent for clarification.

    2. Get adequate liability coverage: Liability coverage is the most critical aspect of your homeowner's insurance policy in relation to dog bite injuries. It provides protection if your dog injures someone or causes property damage. Ensure that your policy includes sufficient liability coverage to cover potential medical expenses, legal costs, and damages resulting from a dog bite incident. Consider higher liability limits if you own a dog breed that may be deemed high-risk by insurance companies.

    3. Get personal umbrella insurance: Personal umbrella insurance is an additional layer of liability coverage that extends beyond the limits of your homeowner's policy. It provides broader protection and higher coverage limits. Consider obtaining a personal umbrella policy, which can be an affordable way to increase your overall liability coverage. This added protection can prove invaluable if a severe dog bite incident leads to significant financial damages.

    4. Carefully select your dog breed: Understand that certain dog breeds may be classified as high-risk or excluded by insurance companies due to perceived aggression tendencies. While breed-specific exclusions can vary by insurer and location, consider selecting a dog breed that is generally not associated with aggressive behavior. This may help ensure that your homeowner's insurance policy covers any potential dog bite claims.

    5. Practice responsible dog ownership: Demonstrating responsible dog ownership can positively impact your insurance coverage. Take proactive measures to reduce the risk of dog bite incidents by properly training and socializing your dog. Additionally, consider enrolling your dog in obedience classes or behavioral training programs. Keeping your dog on a leash during walks and securely contained within your property can also help prevent potential accidents or incidents.

    What tactics do insurance companies use to avoid paying?

    insurance company

    While insurance companies are obligated to provide coverage for dog bite claims under homeowners' insurance policies, it is not uncommon for them to employ tactics to delay or avoid paying out claims. Understanding these strategies can help dog bite victims and their personal injury lawyers navigate the claims process more effectively. Here are some common tactics used by insurance companies:

    1. Investigation delays: Insurance companies may intentionally prolong the investigation process by requesting extensive documentation, additional statements, or unnecessary records. This delay tactic aims to frustrate the claimant and potentially weaken their resolve to pursue the claim.

    2. Disputing liability: Insurance companies may attempt to shift the blame onto the victim by alleging provocation, trespassing, or negligence on their part. They may argue that the victim's actions contributed to the dog bite incident, thereby reducing or denying the claim. This tactic is often used to lower the amount of compensation or avoid paying altogether.

    3. Challenging coverage: Insurance companies may dispute coverage based on policy exclusions or limitations. They may claim that the dog breed involved in the incident is excluded or that the policyholder failed to disclose relevant information about the dog's behavior during the application process. Such challenges can lead to delays and potential denial of coverage.

    4. Lowball settlement offers: Insurance companies may make initial dog bite settlement offers that are significantly lower than the actual value of the claim. They hope that the claimant will accept the offer due to financial pressure or a lack of knowledge about the true worth of their claim. It is crucial for victims to consult with a personal injury lawyer who can accurately assess the value of their claim and negotiate for a fair settlement amount.

    5. Delaying or denying claims: Insurance companies may unjustifiably delay processing the claim or deny it outright. They may cite technicalities, policy interpretation, or alleged breaches of policy terms as reasons for the denial. This forces the claimant to either give up or go through the time-consuming and costly process of pursuing legal action.

    6. Surveillance and investigation: Insurance companies may conduct surveillance or hire investigators to gather evidence that undermines the claimant's credibility or the severity of their injuries. They may monitor the claimant's activities or review social media posts to find inconsistencies or evidence that contradicts the claimant's statements. This surveillance is often used to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the claim.

    7. Requiring independent medical examinations: Insurance companies may insist on having the claimant undergo an independent medical examination (IME) by a doctor of their choosing. The purpose of the IME is to obtain a medical opinion that supports the insurance company's position, such as downplaying the extent of the injuries or attributing them to pre-existing conditions.

    How can dog bite victims navigate insurance-related obstacles?

    To navigate these challenges, dog bite victims should consider the following steps:

    • Engage a personal injury lawyer: Working with an experienced dog bite attorney can level the playing field. Personal injury attorneys have a thorough understanding of insurance tactics and can advocate for the victim's rights throughout the claims process.

    • Document the incident: Collect and preserve evidence related to the dog bite incident, including photographs of injuries, medical records, witness statements, and any communication with the insurance company. This documentation strengthens the claimant's position and helps counter the insurance company's tactics.

    • Promptly respond to requests: Cooperate with reasonable requests from the insurance company but consult with your lawyer before providing any information. It is crucial to strike a balance between fulfilling their requirements and protecting your rights.

    • Stay persistent: Do not give in to pressure or delay tactics from the insurance company. Remain persistent in pursuing your claim and seek legal advice if necessary. Insurance companies may be more inclined to settle fairly if they see that you are prepared to take legal action if needed.

    Strategies to combat insurance company tactics

    dog bite injury lawyer

    For victims of dog bites, dealing with insurance companies can be challenging. By being informed about the tactics employed by insurance companies and seeking professional guidance, dog bite victims can better protect their rights and maximize their chances of receiving fair compensation. Here are some additional strategies to consider:

    • Maintain a detailed record: Keep a comprehensive record of all communication with the insurance company, including dates, times, and the content of conversations. This documentation helps track any attempts by the insurance company to delay or avoid the claims process.

    • Respond promptly and thoroughly: Promptly respond to any requests for information or documentation from the insurance company. However, it is crucial to consult with your personal injury lawyer before providing any statements or signing any documents. Your lawyer can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you provide only necessary information.

    • Seek legal representation: Engage the services of a personal injury lawyer who specializes in dog bite cases. They possess the expertise and knowledge to handle insurance companies' tactics effectively. A lawyer can communicate with the insurance company on your behalf, navigate the complexities of the claims process, and advocate for your best interests.

    • Document medical treatment and expenses: Keep a detailed record of all medical attention received, including diagnoses, prescriptions, surgeries, and rehabilitation. Retain copies of medical bills and receipts for expenses related to the dog bite incident. This documentation is vital for substantiating your personal injury claim and calculating the full extent of your damages.

    • Be mindful of recorded statements: Exercise caution when providing recorded statements to the insurance company. Insurance adjusters may attempt to elicit statements that could be used against you to diminish the value of your claim. It is advisable to consult with your personal injury lawyer before providing any recorded statements.

    • Stay informed and educated: Understand the dog bite laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. Stay informed about strict liability, the dog bite statute of limitations, your rights, and the insurance company's obligations. Educate yourself about the typical tactics employed by insurance companies to delay or deny claims. This knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and respond effectively to any challenges that arise.


    Remember, insurance companies are profit-driven entities, and their goal is to minimize payouts for personal injury cases. By arming yourself with knowledge, documentation, and the support of a skilled personal injury lawyer, you can navigate the claims process more confidently and ensure that your rights are protected.

    Talk to a dog bite injury lawyer today

    If you or a family member is a victim of a dog attack and dealing with the emotional trauma and medical costs from an injury, it’s important to consult a dog bite lawyer to understand your legal options. Contact the law firm of Palermo Law Group to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who values the attorney-client relationship and can guide you through the legal process of a dog-bite lawsuit, protect your rights, and help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation today.



    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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