Close-up portrait of an angry dog. Who pays if a neighbor's dog bites me on my property?

There are many incidents you can't always predict ahead of time. For instance, you might not expect that you'd ever get into trouble for someone else's pet, but as a homeowner, unfortunately it can happen. So who pays in Tennessee if a neighbor's dog bites a stranger on your property? 

Fortunately a Tennessee independent insurance agent can help you get set up with the right homeowners insurance to protect you whether you're responsible to pay or not. They'll help you get protected against this seemingly unlikely scenario and many others. But first, here's a closer examination of who'd pay in this case.

In Tennessee, Who's Responsible If My Neighbor's Dog Bites a Stranger on My Property?

Homeowners insurance companies in Tennessee tend to assign the blame to the dog's owner. If your neighbor's dog wandered onto your property, invited or not, and injured someone, it'd be your neighbor's responsibility to pay for it. The person who got bitten by the dog might also decide to sue your neighbor if the injury was serious.

Which Coverage Would My Neighbor Need to Protect Them?

Your neighbor would need to have adequate Tennessee homeowners insurance if their dog bit anyone and caused an injury. Tennessee homeowners insurance would protect them in the following ways:

  • Medical payments: The medical payments section of a Tennessee home insurance policy would protect your neighbor by reimbursing them for costs of treatment of injuries to a third party on their property, or in this case, caused by their dog on your property.
  • Liability coverage: The liability coverage section of a Tennessee home insurance policy would protect your neighbor against hefty lawsuit costs if they got sued by the injured person, by reimbursing for attorney fees, settlement costs, and other legal fees.

A Tennessee independent insurance agent can help you (and your neighbor) get set up with the right homeowners insurance policy to protect against many strange situations.

What If My Neighbor Was Uninsured? 

Since the dog belongs to your neighbor, they're responsible for covering damage caused by their pet, period. It's up to your neighbor to make sure that they're adequately covered by the right protection, especially if they have an aggressive animal. If they failed to get homeowners insurance for themselves, the harsh truth is that it's on them.

Your neighbor could end up having to pay out of their own pocket to cover costs of medical treatment to the injured person, as well as costs of a lawsuit if they got sued. But you wouldn't have to worry about covering the damage if your neighbor was uninsured. In the eyes of insurance, no matter what, the fault lies on the owner of the dog.

What If My Neighbor's Dog Wasn't a Covered Breed?

Many home insurance policies in Tennessee come with exclusions of coverage for various dog breeds considered to stereotypically be more aggressive. Say your neighbor had a dog breed that was actually excluded by their insurance, such as a Mastiff. Even though some folks try to get away with having excluded dog breeds, they can end up literally paying for it if their animal causes an incident. 

If your neighbor's Mastiff bit someone and injured them, and that breed was specifically excluded by their home insurance policy, they'd be out of luck, coverage-wise. Your neighbor would have to pay for the cost of the third party's injuries themselves. They'd also potentially have to pay for the cost of a lawsuit out of their own pocket, which could get expensive.

Are There Any Scenarios When the Dog Bite Wouldn't Be My Neighbor's Responsibility?

There are a couple of special circumstances in which your neighbor actually wouldn't be held responsible for any damage caused by their dog. The first is if someone on your property provoked the dog into aggression, resulting in them getting bitten. Home insurance companies don't cover dog bites if the animal was provoked first, because the owner wouldn't actually be considered at fault for the incident.

There's also something called the "one bite rule" under Tennessee home insurance, which lets dog owners claim their pet has never bitten someone before. In Tennessee, this rule can be applied even if the dog owner knew their dog could tend to be aggressive and bite. Under the one bite rule, your neighbor would be likely to be covered by their insurance and not have to pay for the damage out of their own pocket, even if they knew their dog was a biter.

How Likely Is a Dog Bite, Really?

How likely is a dog bite?

It may not seem like a dog bite could ever realistically happen on your property, but you might be surprised at the actual stats. About 4.5 million dog bites happen each year across the US, and 800,000 of these are serious enough to require medical treatment. Perhaps more disturbing, an average of 1 in every 73 people are estimated to get bitten by a dog in their lifetime.

More dog bite stats:

  • Chained dogs are responsible for about 25% of fatal dog attacks on humans.
  • Chihuahuas bite humans more often than any other dog breed.
  • In one recent year, $853.7 million was paid out in dog bite claims by insurance companies.
  • Dog bite claims fell to 16,990 total in that same year, down from 17,800 the previous year. 
  • The cost of dog bite claims rose even though the overall number of claims fell during the pandemic.

With tens of thousands of dog bite claims being filed annually, and the cost of these claims continuing to rise, it's more important than ever to ensure that you're equipped with the right protection just in case.

Why Choose a Tennessee Independent Insurance Agent?

It’s simple. Tennessee independent insurance agents simplify the process by shopping and comparing insurance quotes for you. Not only that, but they’ll also cut the jargon and clarify the fine print so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Tennessee independent insurance agents also have access to multiple insurance companies, ultimately finding you the best home insurance coverage, accessibility, and competitive pricing while working for you.

iii.org/article/am-i-covered

griffithinjurylaw.com/library/dangerous-dog-breed-laws-in-tennessee-municipalities.cfm

griffithinjurylaw.com/library/understanding-dog-bite-liability-under-tennessee-law.cfm

investopedia.com/dog-bite-claims-decrease-but-costs-hit-record-5179199

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