Insurance: Dog Bites and Dangerous Breed List
Recently the Palm Beach County Commission has stated a desire to examine a ban on pit bulls within the county. This plan will not succeed since Florida has made it unlawful to ban specific breeds at the county level (Miami-Dade passed their anti-pit bull regulations before Florida made it unlawful and were grandfathered in).
I have owned dogs my entire life and have never been bitten. However, as a personal injury attorney I have seen my fair share of dog bite cases. Years ago dog bites were covered by homeowners insurance. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute, since 2012 home insurers have paid out more than $489 million in dog bite-related claims. This has led most home insurers to either disclaim what they deem to be “dangerous breeds” or disclaim coverage for all dogs altogether. If you are a dog owner, look carefully at your homeowners insurance policy to see if you are covered. Also, always let your insurance carrier know of ANY dog you own, or they may disclaim coverage under a misrepresentation. Generally, “dangerous” or “aggressive” dogs consist of the following breeds:
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Siberian Husky
- Wolf Hybrids
- Doberman Pinscher
- Pit Bull
- Staffordshire Terrier
Representing the interests of dog bite victims is not easy. Oftentimes the injuries (both physical and mental) outweigh the possible recovery. This is due to the aforementioned homeowners insurance industry’s recent move to disclaim liability for dogs.
The same is true for apartment and condominium complexes. Many of these types of housing options do not rent or sell to owners of dangerous breed dogs. However, if you have been bitten by a dog and the owner either (1) has no insurance or (2) their insurance disclaims coverage, you may have an action against the apartment or condo complex for not enforcing their own complex rules and regulations. This can be done via the common law “undertaker’s rule.” This rule basically says that when an entity or person undertakes a duty, they are required to enforce or adhere to that duty. Therefore, if the complex management either knows, or should have known, that there was a dangerous breed on their premises and they did not enforce their dangerous breed rule, they may be liable for the damages sustained from a bite incident.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Maggie Smith