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Who is responsible for paying compensation when a dog bites?

Under California law, dog owners are strictly liable for the damages their pets cause, especially if the dog attacks, bites or otherwise injures another person. This means that the pet owner is absolutely liable for compensating the injured party, but it may not always be the owner herself who opens up the checkbook. Depending on the situation, the dog's owner may be covered by insurance.

Home insurance coverage is a must for pet owners who own their home, and if their pet ever injures someone in their own home, they will be very glad they are covered. Most California homeowner's insurance policies cover injuries caused by pets, however, some insurance companies specifically refuse to cover certain breeds of dogs which may be known to have more aggressive tendencies than others. For example, Pit Bulls and German Shepherds are often singled out by insurance companies, so owners of these dogs may not get the benefit of insurance coverage if their pet hurts someone. Homeowner's insurance may or may not cover expenses incurred from a dog bite that occurs away from the home, depending on the specifics of their policy.

If a dog bite occurs in a car, it is quite likely that the injuries will be covered by the owner's car insurance. A surprisingly high number of animal injuries occur in vehicles, or may involve animals in the back of a flatbed pickup truck or animals that bite people's hands if they come to close to open windows of parked cars.

The fact of the matter is that many pet owners won't have to bear the cost of the injuries their pets cause entirely out of pocket. People who are injured or attacked by a dog should be aware that they may be entitled to significant compensation for their injuries, pain and suffering and medical expenses even if they don't want to wipe out the dog owner's bank account in a suit for damages.

Source: Findlaw "Animal Bites: Who Pays Damages?" accessed Jan. 18, 2014

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