What to Do when the Dog Owner Says He’s Uninsured

There is a protocol that should be followed when a dog owner alleges there is no insurance. It’s not a matter of asking for their policy, but going further if injury warrants it. Here’s why:

Several years ago, Attorney Kenneth Phillips agreed to represent a young mother whose arm was snapped off by a pit bull. The arm was reattached but she was in bad shape. The responsible parties were an older couple who, according to their attorney, had nothing. He found out, however, that they had investment properties. Phillips got them to write the victim a check for $95,000 and he also talked the doctors into waiving payment for treatment. The young mom now owns property and a mobile home, and is doing fine. But nobody was going to help her because it seemed, at first, that there was no way to win.

To attempt to get justice for the victim, there are three things that must be done:

Get answers from the dog owner

First, one must file suit and get answers under oath to the following questions:

  • Who are all the parties you purchase your insurance from — meaning any and all insurance, whether or not you believe a policy provided coverage for this?
  • List all of your insurance policies whether or not you believe they provided coverage for this.
  • Have you asked those parties whether you have insurance for this?
  • Who did you ask and what were you told?
  • Have you asked those parties whether you have an umbrella policy?
  • Who did you ask and what were you told?
  • Have you asked those parties whether you have an excess policy?
  • Who did you ask and what were you told?
  • Have you asked those parties whether your motor vehicle insurance consists of two policies, one being a motor vehicular accident liability policy and the other being an umbrella policy?
  • Who did you ask and what were you told?

The dog owner also must be told to give us copies of all of of his policies so that we can read them and discuss them with the parties he purchases his insurance from. There are a few states that require people to give this type of information. If the response is unsatisfactory or incomplete, one must take the dog owner’s deposition for the purpose of learning additional information.

Get answers from the insurance agents and brokers

Second, there must be follow-up with the people who sell the insurance to the dog owner. Each must be asked whether there is an applicable policy, whether there are additional policies, and what they know about coverage for dog bites.

Do a private investigation

Third, a private investigator must be retained to conduct a thorough investigation into two areas: the dog’s history of viciousness, and the owner’s financial condition. An uninsured dog owner might have a number of investments, might own real property in different places, etc. This would mean that he might not be able or willing to declare bankruptcy.

See whether you can find an attorney who will do these things on a contingency fee basis. If not, contact the most highly qualified dog bite attorney you can find, and discuss what it would cost for him to represent you for hourly fees.