NJ Consumers Beware of Bill Giving Homeowner's Insurance Exclusion of Coverage For Your Dog

As I commented on my recent interview on UPN9 news, concerning dog bite attacks in New Jersey, the lack of mandatory liability insurance coverage by dog owners, particularly of breeds that have been known to have had dangerous histories, results in a tremendous problem for victims of serious dog bite attacks. Dog bite victims often incur thousands of dollars in medical bills and will endure a lifetime of both physical and emotional scarring. Anecdotally, from my own experiences as a dog bite victim’s advocate and attorney, frequently dog bite attacks occur by dog owners that are renting so they wouldn’t have homeowner’s insurance nor do they have renters/tenants insurance that will step in to compensate the victim for their medical bills or suffering that they may go through for many years to come or even permanently. The current state of the law generally only holds the dog owner responsible for a dog bite and if the dog owner is renting then the landlord cannot be compelled to pay for the medical bills and will not be held accountable in anyway.

The reality is that if dog owners are not insured with a liability policy that would step in and provide sufficient coverage after serious injury from a dog bite, then the victim is typically left without recourse because most often those dog owners are judgment proof. This means that even if they got an actual judgment against the dog owner in the New Jersey courts, the victim would never collect on his or her judgment because of insufficient assets or income of the dog owner. This is why mandatory sufficient liability coverage is vital to protecting the innocent victims of dog attacks.

Why is it mandatory that we have to have liability insurance on motor vehicles in NJ? Due to a strong public policy concern for protecting those that are injured in motor vehicle accidents. [The actual minimal mandatory liability coverage’s for owners of automobiles have been whittled down to almost nothing at this point but that is an entirely different topic that I have taken on in several of my video clips and blog entries.] Why should owners of potentially dangerous dogs not also be required to carry the same liability coverage as those who own cars in New Jersey? We obviously should have the same public policy and safety concerns for the residents and visitors of our state.

Instead of moving in the direction of mandatory liability coverage the NJ legislature is actually moving in the opposite direction due pressure from the powerful insurance lobby. For example take a look at A-3559 sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Albano, which was introduced into in December of 2010. I have reproduced the relevant parts below for the readers benefit.

2. a. An insurer shall not (1) refuse to issue, (2) cancel, or (3)
16 non-renew a homeowners insurance policy solely on the basis of the
17 type or specific breed of dog harbored upon the insured property.
18 b. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection a. of this
19 section, an insurer may offer or issue a homeowners insurance
20 policy which contains an exclusion against covering any liability
21 for a dog, or on the basis of the type or specific breed of dog,
22 harbored upon the insured property.

Translation into plain English: With regard to any dog kept on your property, insurance companies may exclude (so they certainly will exclude) liability coverage for all dogs or any specific breed(s) they deem worth excluding. ie; dogs that the insurer deems a higher risk causing injury to someone. This bill if passed into law will accomplish absolutely nothing other than to increase the insurance companies’ profits by eliminating any risk that they may have to pay a dog bite victim fair compensation on behalf of their insured. This is accomplished while simultaneously failing to have any concern for the actual suffering injured dog bite victim. This is another example of putting large corporation profits ahead of protecting the people.

THIS INFORMATION IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. THE LAW IS COMPLICATED AND YOU SHOULD SEEK LEGAL REPRESENTATION OR CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE ABOUT YOUR CASE OR SITUATION. PLEASE GO TO MY WEBSITE AT www.grossmanjustice.com AND CALL OR EMAIL ME DIRECTLY SHOULD YOU WISH TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.

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