Your dog may be your best friend, but he can also become a financial liability if he bites someone. Dog bite claims account for more than a third of homeowners insurance liability claims paid out. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of claims annually is around 15,000 to 16,000 over the last 10 years. But the average cost per claim was more than $29,000 in 2011, an increase of 25 percent in eight years, mostly because of increases in medical costs. California imposes strict liability to dog owners for any damages suffered by any person as the result of a dog bite. The main feature of this statute is that liability is assigned regardless of the dogs former showing of vicious tendencies or the owners knowledge of the dogs viciousness. The strict liability rule does offer some protection to dog owners. The strict liability rule does offer some protection to dog owners. A dog owner cannot be held responsible if his dog bites someone, if any of the following conditions exist:
- The person who the dog bit was a trespasser. The law states that if any person was on the property of another without permission, express or implied, then such a person is a trespasser. If a dog bites a trespasser, the owner is not held liable under the strict liability rule.
- If the dog bites the vet who is treating him, the owner is not held liable for the dog bite.
- If a dog bites someone who provoked the dog, then the owner may not be held liable for the dog bite. In many cases where a dog owner has told people to stay away from his dog, but the person has still advanced towards the dog and got bitten, the dog owner is not usually held responsible because it is deemed that the victim unnecessarily provoked the dog in spite of being told not to.
- If a dog has bitten someone while helping the police or during a military operation, the owner will not be held responsible.