According to data compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than a third of all liability claims by homeowners in 2009 and incidents were up 6.4% over 2008 for a whopping total of $412 million. The average cost of a dog bite claim ran $24,840 in 2009 over the $24,461 paid in 2008. Since 2003, the cost of these claims has spiked 30%.
In a statement, the vice president of I.I.I., Loretta Worters, said, “The rise in dog bite claims over the last seven years (2003-2009) can be attributed to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, 4.7 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs; 16 fatally. About half of those bitten are children who will require medical care. About 50% of the total number of bites take place on the dog owner’s property — that last bit alone is a source of major concern to insurers.
Dog bite laws vary from state to state. In some, the owner is automatically held liable, while others give the animal a pass on the first incident with liability and a label of “vicious propensity” attached to second occurrences. There are also laws pertaining to potential negligence on the owner’s part in controlling the dog.
Although you know your pet’s personality, the best course of action, especially in large group settings, like a social gathering or party, is to keep the dog away from your guests — especially children. A single dog bite claim will raise your homeowners premiums unless you get rid of the animal, which few families are willing to do. Don’t try to predict your dog’s emotional reaction to any person or any siltation. Err on the side of caution for both your sakes.