Money

Dog Bites Cost Insurance Companies $500 Million in 2011

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Insurance companies paid out almost $479 million in dog-bite claims in 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s close to a half BILLION dollars! This is up from a total of $412 million in 2009 and $413 million in 2010.


State Farm, the largest homeowners’ insurance writer in the U.S., reported paying more than $109 million on nearly 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide in 2011--an increase from the 3,500 claims and $90 million in payouts in 2010.

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CANINE-CRAZY CALIFORNIA LEADS THE PACK!

In California a total of 527 dog-bite claims were filed with State Farm, with victims receiving $20.3 million, a jump of 31 percent over 2010. .On individual claim costs, New York came in first at an average of $45,900. California paid a per-claim average of $38,500, and Michigan was next with an average $38,700 per claim, according to the Associated Press. The average cost per claim nationally in 2011 was $28,799.

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There are 78.2 million dogs in the U.S., says Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, that’s one dog for every four people. "Statistically, the numbers have gone up at the same time that we've become more of an urban society. People own more dogs and live closer together." Skow said most of the victims are children. "Forty years ago, a kid got bit, Mom and Dad didn't take him to a plastic surgeon. Nowadays they do."


The cost of dog bite claims has risen 48% since 2003, even though the number of dog bites has remained roughly stable, the Institute reports, with medical costs, judgments, jury awards and settlements to plaintiffs outpacing inflation.


INSURANCE COMPANIES MAY EXCLUDE VICIOUS DOGS FROM POLICIES

"Most insurance policies are going to put in their underwriting provisions that they're not going to cover vicious dogs," said Tom Alger, Iowa Insurance Division spokesman. Eighteen states have “first-bite-free” laws, which let dog owners escape liability for their dog's first bite. But others, including Iowa, hold an owner liable for all damages caused by his/her dog, unless the person injured was committing a crime or trespassing, or unless the dog had rabies and the owner didn't know it. It is a good idea for any dog owner to check the laws of his/her state.


PREMIUMS MAY ALSO RISE

Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance cover dog liability as part of the policy’s standard coverage. Be sure to read your policy carefully to determine the limits. Once a dog has bitten someone, your premium may go up — or the dog may at that time be excluded from coverage. It can be really tough if you are faced with a decision regarding the liability of keeping a four-legged family member. Some companies may just require the owner to take the dog to behavior modification classes to continue coverage.


LIABILITY CAN EXTEND TO LANDLORDS

On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved a landmark “aggressive and menacing” dog-behavior law which includes the requirement for preventive measures to control animals considered potentially a danger, before they attack other animals or humans. Landlords are also held responsible for tenants' failure to curb menacing or aggressive behavior of pets or to properly confine them, under the new law. Read more… http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/should-landlord-pay-if-tenants-dog-attacks-someone


CHILDREN, SENIORS AND POSTAL CARRIERS MOST FREQUENT VICTIMS

The Centers for Disease Control reports that out of approximately 4.7-milliion dog bites annually, only about 800,000 people seek professional medical attention. Less than half of those victims require treatment, and about 16 die. Children ages 5 to 9 years old are the most frequently bitten, followed by senior citizens and then letter carriers, reports SFGate.com.


The latest statistics released by the U.S. Postal Service show that Los Angeles has moved into first place with the most carriers bites at 83; San Diego is second with 68; followed by Houston at 47; and Cleveland at 44, the Associated Press reports..


The Insurance Information Institute and the United States Postal Service are educating the public on dog bite statistics during National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The first and best step to take if you notice any undesirable change in your dog’s behavior is to contact a local trainer. Even small aggressive dogs can become a BIG problem!


Read Dog Attacks on Letter Carriers, Not Just a Postal Problem http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/dog-attacks-letter-carriers-not-just-postal-problem

 

Source:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/05/16/national/a144317D90.DTL