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Will insurance cover a dog bite injury?

Dog bites and dog-related injuries accounted for one-third of the liability claim dollars paid out in 2015 by homeowners' insurance policies. The Insurance Information Institute found that the number of dog bite claims decreased, but the cost-per-claim went up by 16 percent from the previous year. Wisconsin has specific laws that govern liability in the case of a dog bite. Understanding these laws helps you understand whether you have a claim.

What does the law in Wisconsin say?

Wisconsin is a "strict liability" dog bite state. Section 174.02(1)(a) reads: "the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property." A dog owner does not have to know that the dog is dangerous to be liable for injuries. Many states use a one-bite rule before assuming liability, i.e., the owner is required to know the dog is dangerous, typically because the dog has bitten someone before. In Wisconsin, owners who know the dog is dangerous may be held liable for double the amount of damages.

Dog owners might attempt to show that the person injured was at fault. In the law, it is called comparative negligence. If the dog owner can show that you provoked the dog and were partially responsible for the injuries, it can mitigate the damages you recover. This rule can apply even if the dog's owner knew the dog was dangerous.

What to do after a dog bite

If you have been injured by a dog, you should first seek medical treatment. Try to get the name and phone number of the dog's owner. For a dog bite, you should also ask for the name of the veterinarian to get current vaccination information. If you do not know who owns the dog, contact local animal control authorities. Get the names of witnesses.

Even if you do not think you need to make a claim, you should still gather this information. You might change your mind if the injury is worse than you initially thought. Take pictures of your injuries. Keep all documents and bills related to the dog injury. Save any torn clothing or damaged property as evidence.

Whether homeowner's insurance covers your injuries is largely up to the individual policy. Therefore, you may need to speak to your own personal injury attorney about dog bite and injury liability. Even if homeowner's insurance does not cover the damages, the dog owner should still be held liable for your expenses.

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