I am a defendant in a dog bite personal injury case. My homeowners insurance adjusted my contract to include a "canine exclusion" and as a result I have no insurance for my canine and I know in CA I am strictly liable for the damages. Is there a way that I can still hold the homeowners insurance liable for the damages? Also, if I file for bankruptcy after the personal injury case, will I be held liable for the punitive damages after I file for bankruptcy?
If the homeowners policy was revised to have a "canine exclusion," the only way to hold the insurance company responsible would be to argue that the revision is unenforceable, either because it was misrepresented to you or changed during a coverage period for which you had already paid and during which the claim arose.
You'd need to discuss the dischargeability of a punitive damages award with a BK attorney, but my understanding is that punitive damages fall within the 523(a)(6) exemption from discharge. That said, unless you were sicking the dogs on someone, it would be hard to imagine that punitive damages would be warranted in a dog bite case.
I hope this helps.
To get the HO ins on the hook you will need to show they improperly altered your policy and did not provide proper notice, etc... It is unlikely to have punitive damages awarded in a dog bite case, but there isn't enough facts here to address. If there are puni's awarded they will not be discharged through a BK
In addition to the other answers, you should have the policy language reviewed by an atty who specializes in ins coverage disputes. Sometimes the language in the exclusion or the location, type size etc can invalidate or show that it may not apply. Some policies try to exclude certain breeds, and those clauses have been challenged when the dog is shown to have multiple breed lineage.
Doubtful that punitive damages will be awarded in dog bite case, but you haven't provided details. The mere fact that punis are awarded, doesn't necessarily mean they are non dischargeable in BK. Bk law has its own interpretation of what is not dischargeable, so you would want to talk to a Bk atty. You need to do that anyway, as you need to know what assets you can protect etc if you have to file. You have a home, and if you have equity, you need to see if you can protect the home.
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