Who Actually Pays the Damages

Many serious dog attacks involve the dog of a friend or family member. In fact, when the victim is a small child, there is a 75% chance that the dog owner is a family member, neighbor or friend. (See Dog Bite Law: Statistics.) Therefore, victims frequently worry about who will pay their damages because they don’t want a friend or family member to feel the burden. There is no reason to worry. Even though the dog owner is technically liable, the damages usually are paid by:

  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Motor home owner’s insurance
  • Condominium owner’s insurance
  • Landlord’s insurance (covering the owner, occupier and/or manager of property)
  • Commercial general liability insurance (covering stores and other businesses)
  • Insurance covering employers (protecting employees only)
  • Motor vehicle insurance (if the accident results from the use of the vehicle; i.e., if the dog and the victim were inside the car, or the dog was tied to the car and the victim was walking past the car, but probably not if the dog jumped from the car and ran 25 feet to bite the victim, as was the case in State Farm Mut. Ins. Co. v. Grisham (2004) 04 C.D.O.S. 8574 (CA Court of Appeal)

Therefore, if you are a victim and the dog owner is a friend or family member who is covered by insurance, and if that insurance has a limit high enough to cover your needs, there is no possibility that your friend or family member will ever have to pay one cent toward your compensation.

There have been cases where a defendant in a lawsuit had to pay for damages out of his or her pocket because:

  • The insurance was inadequate
  • There was no insurance
  • The defendant acted with actual malice and intentionally caused the injury, and the damages were designed to punish him or her

However, the victim has complete control as to whether to ask for or collect such compensation. If the victim decides against pursuing certain damages, there is no possibility that the dog owner will have to pay them.