The Cost of Dog Bites - Consumer Justice Foundation

The Cost of Dog Bites

Written by Faith Anderson on May 22, 2012
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Cost of Dog Bites in the United States

According to the Insurance Information Institute’s analysis of homeowners insurance data, the average cost of dog bite claims in the United States was $29,396 in 2011, a 53.4% increase from 2004, which was $19,162. Increases in medical costs associated with dog bites and the sizes of settlements and jury awards have all outpaced inflation, said the organization, contributing to the significant rise in insurance payouts for dog bite accidents. State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the country, paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011 alone.

Extensive Medical Treatment for Dog Bite Injuries

The unfortunate fact about dog bite accidents is that children are the most common victims, especially young children who may not know any better than to approach a potentially dangerous dog. And as more and more children are injured in dog bite accidents, the extensive medical care parents pursue contributes to the increase we are seeing in payouts. “Forty years ago, a kid got bit, Mom and Dad didn’t take him to a plastic surgeon,” said Skow. “Nowadays they do.” There are 78.2 million dogs in the United States, according to estimates by the American Pet Products Association. That amounts to one dog for every four people. About 800,000 people seek medical attention for dog bites each year; less than half of those people require treatment and about 16 die, says the CDC.

Dog Bite Accidents May Affect Insurance Premiums

Dog bite laws in many states let dog owners off on liability for their dog’s first attack, but other states hold the dog owner liable for all damages caused by the dog, unless the dog had rabies without the owner’s knowledge, or unless the person injured was committing a crime or trespassing. As states begin to crack down on dog owners for dog bite accidents, insurance companies may also begin to take steps to protect themselves from costly payouts for dog bite injuries. “Most insurance policies are going to put in their underwriting provisions that they’re not going to cover vicious dogs,” said Tom Alger, spokesman for the Iowa Insurance Division.

Posted Under: United States
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