Farmers Insurance has changed its policy recently with regard to coverage in dog bite cases – specifically where it pertains to certain breeds of dogs. According to a KCRA news report, the company is no longer providing liability coverage for dog bite claims when it comes to three breeds – pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids. Farmers representatives have said that the company is not canceling policies. Rather, since mid-January, Farmers agents have been requiring customers to sign an exclusion waiver of liability coverage for the dog bites. Without the signature, the customer’s policy will not be renewed.
Farmers said in a statement that these three breeds together account for 25 percent of dog bite claims and they also cause more harm when they attack compared to any other breed.
Critics of Farmers’ new policy say insurance companies should do a better job when it comes to risk assessment rather than adopting a blanket policy toward the dog breeds, such as whether the individual owner is responsible. Do they do obedience training, for example? The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2011, dog bite claims paid out by all insurers totaled $92.7 million for 2,400 claims in California.
California’s Dog Bite Law
Liability coverage for dog bites is important for all pet owners. This is particularly true in states such as California that have a “strict liability statute” when it comes to dog attacks. This means that dog owners are responsible for the injuries and damages caused by their pets. California’s Civil Code Section 3342 states: “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
How Dog Owners and Victims are Affected
While statistics do support the fact that pit bulls and rottweilers together account for more than half of the fatal dog attacks in the United States, Farmers’ policy will end up affecting both dog owners and victims. Breed bans are illegal in California and this is one way insurance companies can pressurize dog owners to stay away from these types of breeds.
However, it affects dog bite victims the most. Those who are injured in dog attacks face major expenses in terms of medical and surgery costs and lost wages. When the insurance company doesn’t cover these types of damages, victims will likely struggle to obtain fair compensation for their losses. It remains to be seen if other insurance companies follow in Farmers Insurance’s footsteps or if they continue to cover all breeds. If they do, then, dog owners can simply switch insurance companies to make sure that their pets are not excluded from this type of coverage. Having liability insurance coverage is certainly an important part of responsible dog ownership.