beware of dog 3According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries; about half of these are children. If your dog was the guilty party, do you know if your homeowners insurance would cover any liability? Anything not covered by your policy is your responsibility.

There are some companies that will not issue a policy to a household with a dog. Others go by a list of so-called dangerous dogs, like Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chows, Great Danes, Presa Canarios, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and Wolf-hybrids to determine whether to provide coverage. You may even be asked to sign a liability waiver.

Once your dog is labeled a biter, your premium could go up or your insurance company may decide not to renew your policy.

An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 4.7 percent in 2014, the average cost per claim for the year was up 15 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 in 2014, compared with $27,862 in 2013. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.

Obviously, your best resource to find out if you are covered for dog bite liability is your insurance professional. Maybe you need an umbrella policy or possibly coverage specifically written for dogs. Don’t get caught short and end up paying a big bill out-of-pocket. Set up a meeting with your agent or broker and be sure you have all the coverage you need.