Dog bites (and other dog-related injuries) accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2015, costing in excess of $570 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that, while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 7.2 percent in 2015, the average cost per claim for the year was up 16 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $37,214 in 2015, compared with $32,072 in 2014 and $27,862 in 2013.
“‘The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 94 percent from 2003 to 2015, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing,’ said Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I.,” in the May 2016 I.I.I. article, “Dog Bites Accounted for More than One-Third of all Homeowners Liability Payouts Last Year as Cost Per Claim Soars to More than $37,000 Per Bite.”
The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not simply to dog bites, but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, etc. — all of which can result in fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses. Another factor might be the surge in United States Postal Service worker attacks, many of which take place at the customer’s door.
Even normally docile dogs may bite when they are frightened or when defending their puppies, owners, or food. However, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place. The most dangerous dogs are those that fall victim to human shortcomings, such as poor training, irresponsible ownership, and breeding practices that foster viciousness.
According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a veterinary professor at Texas A&M, “the majority of dog bites come from dogs we already know, and the largest groups are children and the elderly.”
“‘Dogs not raised with good social skills can become dogs that bite,’ said Beaver. ‘It is important to socialize your dog; see how the dog interacts with people,’ she added. ‘Owners need to be able to read their dogs’ body language. Don’t assume that a dog won’t bite.’ She noted that children and dogs should never be left together unsupervised. Not only can the child get hurt, but so does the dog because it is the one that gets put down.”