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Dog-Related Injuries Responsible for $700 Million in Liability Claims

landlord liability for dog-related injuries
Whether you have a pet-free or pet-friendly policy, make sure your insurance coverage has the right liability protection.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm, the nation’s largest writer of homeowner’s insurance, dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost almost $700 million in liability claims in 2017, representing more than one-third of homeowner liability claims. California led the nation with 2,228 claims, more than twice the number in fourth-ranked New York, at 957. But the Empire State had a higher average cost per claim, at just under $43,500.

Apparently, dog-bite claims are yet another area where New York exceeds the national average ($37,051 for 2017).

A spokesperson for the I.I.I. reports that the national average cost per claim has increased more than 90% since 2003. She attributes the increase to higher medical costs, as well as larger settlements, judgments and jury awards.

Dog-Related Injury Implications for Landlords

Liability concerns may convince some landlords to adopt either a no-pets policy or a very restrictive pet policy. Legal website Nolo says that it’s rare for a landlord to be found liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. Simply renting to a tenant with a dog does not make the landlord legally responsible for the pet’s actions.

Generally speaking, landlord liability for dog-related injuries depends on one of the following conditions:

  • Failure to remove a dog that is known to be dangerous
  • Control over the dog, such as agreeing to pet-sit in the owner’s absence

To know that a dog poses a danger, the landlord must know that it previously threatened or injured someone. Knowing that a tenant chains a dog that barks when approached, for instance, does not necessarily transfer liability to a landlord. Under such circumstances, a New York court did not hold a landlord liable for an injury caused by a tenant’s dog.

Someone who cares for or otherwise exercises control over a dog often has the same liability as the legal owner. Even landlords who love animals should think twice about special requests concerning pets. (Take this suggestion in the same spirit as the one about not loaning equipment to contractors.)

Whether you have a pet-free or pet-friendly policy, call our office at 877-576-5200. Make sure your commercial insurance policy has the right liability protection. For questions about pet-related liability, visit the Nolo website for their landlord resources, or consult with an attorney.

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