While most states, including Maryland, have laws requiring vehicle operators to exchange insurance information at the scene of a collision, there is no such requirement after a dog bite.
We frequently meet with new clients who have been bitten or injured by dogs while out in public and the critical inquiry for us is whether there will be homeowners or renters insurance that will pay benefits to the victim on behalf of the dog owner. If there is no insurance, we will typically withdraw from the case. Most of the time, the new client knows nothing more than the name and address of the dog’s owner.
After we are retained by a new client, we will send a letter to the dog’s owner informing them that the injuries caused by their dog may be covered under a homeowners policy, and asking them to either call us with information about their homeowner’s insurance or to forward our letter to their insurance company. Sometimes the letter is successful, and we obtain the insurance information we were after. But most times, we get no response at all from the homeowner. Of course, that DOESN’T mean the property has no insurance. Many homeowners are just worried their rates will go up if an insurance claim is made. But the client’s case cannot move forward until an insurance carrier is identified. Many attorneys give up at that point because they cannot ever verify there is insurance to cover the injuries.
But over the years, we have successfully used the “old school” method of verifying insurance when the homeowner is unresponsive. We CALL all the main insurance carriers and advise each that we want to open a claim regarding a particular address. Once we get claims personnel on the line, they will quickly verify if they insure the subject property. In about a half hour, we can speak with nine or so of the largest carriers, comprising about 85% of homeowners market. So if the property is insured, the odds of getting a hit are pretty good. On more than one occasion, our staff has identified homeowners insurance on a call to the very first carrier.
To save time, below is our sample letter, along with the consolidated list of the contact numbers for the insurance companies we check with, so you don’t have to look each of these up. Happy hunting! And if any of these numbers have gone stale, let us know and we will update the list.
Allstate - 800-255-7828
State Farm - 800-SF-CLAIM (800-732-5246)
Progressive - 855-347-3939
GEICO - 800-841-3000
Liberty Mutual - 800-290-8711
Nationwide - 877-669-6877
Erie - 800-367-3743
USAA - 800-531-USAA (8722)
Farmers - 800-435-7764
Sample Letter to the Dog Owner in a Dog Bite Case
LAW OFFICES OF SUSSMAN & SIMCOX, CHARTERED
301 INSPIRATION LANE SUITE 100
GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND 20878-5817
KAREN L. SUSSMAN TEL (301) 840-0404 HOWARD W. SIMCOX, JR.
123 Main Street
Anywhere, MD 20XXX
Re: Dog Attack Incident of X Date
Please be advised that this office has been retained by [Client Name] in connection with injuries sustained from a dog attack that occurred on X Date.
If you have an active homeowners insurance at this time, the incident may be covered by your homeowner’s policy. Please forward this letter to your insurance carrier or you may forward your insurance information to our office as soon as possible so that we can make contact directly.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me.
Very truly yours,
Howard W. Simcox, Jr.