How Do You Find Out If a Dog Owner Has Insurance in an Illinois Dog Bite Case?

Dog bites can be a traumatic experience for anyone, resulting in physical and emotional injuries that can be difficult to recover from.

As a victim of a dog bite injury, it is crucial to find out if the dog owner has insurance coverage that can compensate you for the damages you have suffered.

A Bloomington dog bite lawyer will discuss the steps you can take to determine if the animal’s owner has dog bite insurance coverage in Illinois.

Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage

When we talk about insurance coverage, we usually mean homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance can be renter’s insurance or a personal umbrella policy.

To find out if insurance coverage can compensate a dog bite injury client for their damages, the easiest way is to ask the dog owner if they have insurance and what company they are insured by. In most dog bite injury cases, the dog owner will comply and provide the information needed.

Sending a Letter of Representation or Notice of Claim

If the client is uncomfortable asking or the owner isn’t cooperative immediately, the next step is sending a letter of representation or a notice of claim.

An injured person could send a notice of claim letter without a lawyer, but it is typically better to have some legal help with this process. When a lawyer sends a letter of representation, it states that the lawyer represents the injured person in their claims for the personal injuries that were caused by the dog owner’s dog, and they ask them to preserve any evidence related to the claim and to notify their insurance carrier of the claim.

Our letter gives them notice of the claim, and we ask that they send our letter to their insurance company. Then, typically, the dog owner will comply when they get a letter like that; they’ll send the letter to their insurance company, the insurance company will open a personal injury claim, and then the insurance adjuster will reach out to the lawyer.

Researching the Dog Owner’s Property Ownership

Some other steps can be taken in cases where the defendants were not cooperative. Sometimes, lawyers will research the dog owner, such as seeing if they own property and if there’s a mortgage. If a property has a mortgage, the owner is typically required to have a homeowner’s insurance policy.

While this insurance policy won’t always have liability coverage, it may be covered in the dwelling. Still, it would be pretty rare to have a homeowner’s insurance policy with no liability coverage at all for the owner.
So, typically, when we see a mortgage, it’s a safe assumption that some kind of homeowner’s coverage will be available. If that effort fails, the next step to determine if they have insurance coverage is to file a lawsuit.

Filing a Lawsuit

When a lawyer files a personal injury lawsuit, one of two things will happen to help determine if the dog owner has coverage.

The Defendant Informs Their Insurance of the Lawsuit

First, it’s an incredibly bad idea if you get sued and have insurance coverage not to give your insurance company a copy of the lawsuit. Your insurance company would have a duty to defend you.

So it may be that the defendant—when they get the lawsuit and it’s filed—can’t put their head in the sand anymore about the situation. And at that point, they will give the lawsuit to their insurance company, open the claim, and reach out to the lawyer.

Your Lawyer Will Commence Discovery

The second step that can happen is if the defendant doesn’t give this to their insurance company, you can hire a personal injury lawyer.

Lawyers have ways of asking questions that compel the defendant to give them information. In what’s called “discovery,” lawyers can ask what insurance policies they may have that can be related. They can also ask them in a deposition (under oath), and they’ll have some duty to give honest answers.

Lawyers can also subpoena the defendant’s bank to see what homeowners coverage might be and what record of homeowners insurance they might have on file with a mortgage.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, it is unnecessary to file a lawsuit to find out if a dog owner has insurance coverage. Asking the dog owner directly or sending a letter of representation or notice of claim is usually enough to get the information needed.

However, if the defendant is uncooperative, there are ways for lawyers to obtain the information necessary to determine if there is insurance coverage.

As a personal injury lawyer in central Illinois, I understand how important it is to determine if a dog owner has insurance coverage to compensate dog bite injury clients for their damages. If you have any questions about dog bite cases or need legal representation for a dog bite injury, please contact us at Onward Injury Law. I am happy to give you a free consultation.

Author Bio

Josh Rohrscheib

Joshua Rohrscheib is the Owner of Onward Injury Law, a Central Illinois personal injury law firm. With more than 17 years of experience in injury law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including car accidents, trucking accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, and other personal injury cases.

Josh received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Top 40 Under 40” in 2019 by The National Trial Lawyers and a “Rising Star” in 2019 by Super Lawyers.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google

Get Your Free Consultation! It Only Takes 5 Minutes.

"*" indicates required fields

By providing your phone number, you agree to receive text messages from Onward Injury Law. Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies.