If my dog bit a child on the street and not in my yard, will my homeowners insurance still cover this?

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If my dog bit a child on the street and not in my yard, will my homeowners insurance still cover this?

While I was on vacation my dog was being watched by a relative at the relative’s home. Another relative that was visiting choose to take my dog for a walk without my consent or the consent of the relative that the dog was left in the care of. The only other person aware of the walk was my 17 year old child who was also staying at the home while I was away. On this walk they allowed a small child to come up and pet my dog who in turn bit the child. Am I solely responsible for this or will insurance cover the incident?

Asked on April 24, 2012 under Personal Injury, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is unlikely that your homeower's insurance would cover this incident since the incident occurred while your dog was off of your property, but you can check with the insurance carrier.

Although you weren't present when the incident occurred, as the owner of the dog you would be liable for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable dog owner would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  The child's parents could sue you for the child's medical bills and for pain and suffering.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills and is based on the medical reports which document the nature and extent of the injury.

If this is the first incident of your dog biting someone, your liability would be based on negligence.  If this is not the first incident of your dog biting someone, your liability would be based on strict liability.  Strict liability is liability imposed whether or not due care was exercised.


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