Reported dog bites lead the pack in homeowners’ liability claims

The average consumer might be surprised to hear a statistic that's well-known within the insurance industry: Dog bites account for more than one-third of homeowners' claims filed each year. The Insurance Information Institute reports that in 2013, providers covered damages costing $483 million to homeowners who sustained a dog bite-related incident at home. 

And the figures are rising. The 17,359 such claims that were filed in 2013 marked a 2.6 percent increase over that figure in 2003. Simultaneously, the size of total payouts increased 49.2 percent, and the cost of an individual dog bite-related claim was up 45.4 percent in ten years. For NerdWallet, Jason Van Steenwyk writes that the fallout can be financially crippling for homeowners who don't have adequate coverage. 

"If you own a dog, and you don't have coverage in place to protect those around you and cover any liability that might arise from your dog biting someone, the victim could sue you and potentially drive you into bankruptcy," he writes. "Depending on your state, you could even be forced to give up your home, involuntarily, along with nearly everything else you own."

While many policies designate certain high-risk breeds that aren't liable to be covered by a homeowners' policy, the staggering percentage and evidence of steady growth make dog ownership a potentially costly factor for insurance providers to consider. With an annual price tag of nearly half a billion dollars, dog bites are the leading insurance claim homeowners file. 

With those statistics in mind, real estate insurance policies should carefully account for the presence of a dog in the home, and homeowners should research additional service if their high-risk breed poses a greater threat to humans.