When a dog bite happens, it is important to identify all of the applicable insurance policies. After doing so, one must confirm that the legally liable people are insured under those policies, and that the dog bite victim is not considered to be an insured under the same policies.
As shown above, there are different types of insurance that cover various situations, like owning a house, renting an apartment, driving a car, etc. The first step is to identify which type of policy might be involved (there might be more than one). The next step is to review the actual language of the policy.
There are two standard forms of homeowners insurance. One is discussed below. Your policy might or might not have these provisions in it. You have to read your policy or retain an attorney to read it with you and tell you what it means. Your insurance agent or broker might also be able to tell you the broad strokes of the policy, but his job is to sell it, not study it; the policy was written by an attorneys and requires the knowledge of an attorney to interpret it and apply it to any given situation.
One of the standard forms was written by Insurance Services Office, Inc. It defines an "insured" as follows:
"Insured" means you and residents of your household who are:
a. your relatives; or
b. other persons under the age of 21 and in the care of any person named above."
"You" is defined as the named insured and his or her spouse, if the spouse is a resident of the same household. The following people are considered to be "insured":
- The named insured and his spouse (i.e., the person whose name is on the policy declarations)
- Relatives of the named insured or spouse who are residents of his or her household
- Non-relatives who are (a) residents of the household, (b) under 21, and (c) under the care of the named insured or his spouse, or a relative of either of them who is a resident of his or her house. Examples include a foster child, a child living with a guardian, or a teenager or other child who is living at the house.
The text of the standard policy by Insurance Services Office, Inc. goes on to include the following language pertaining to animals:
With respect to animals..., any person or organization legally responsible for these animals ... which are owned by you or any person included in [the definition given above]. A person or organization using or having custody of these animals or watercraft in the course of a business or without the consent of the owner is not an insured.
If the attacking dog belongs to the insured or any other person defined above, the above quoted language provides coverage for anyone who has custody of the dog. Some examples would include:
- A pet sitter (but not a paid pet sitter)
- A dog walker (but not a paid dog walker)
- A person who, without permission, takes the dog to the beach or a dog park
Being insured under a policy is not always a good thing. A dog bite victim cannot make a liability claim against a policy that insures him.