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Average dog bite claim tops $37,000, accounts for more than a third of homeowners’ liability claim dollars

Brian Anderson

Did you know that dog bites and dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2015?

More than $570 million was paid out on these types of claims last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm – which paid out a record $118 million on its own as a result of 3,100 dog-related injury claims.

As we embark on National Dog Bite Prevention Week®, May 15-21, led by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and supported by a broad coalition of concerned parties including insurers, this week provides an opportunity to educate adults and children about ways to reduce dog-related injuries.

About 77.8 million dogs are owned as pets in the U.S., according to a 2015/2016 survey from by the American Pet Products Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries; about half of these are children.

Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious.

In its analysis, the I.I.I. found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 7.2% in 2015, the average cost per claim for the year was up 16%. 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. In fact, the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 94% since 2003.

Why is this?

Loretta Worters, vice president at the I.I.I., says increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing, are responsible for the higher costs per claim.

Dog-related injuries also have an impact on the potential severity of losses. In addition to bites, dogs knock down children, cyclists, the elderly, all of which can result in fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries.

Another factor might be the surge in U.S. Postal Service worker attacks, many of which take place at the customer’s door. The U.S.P.S. reported that 6,500 postal carriers were attacked or bitten by dogs in 2015, an increase of nearly 14% compared to reported attacks in 2014. The increase is attributed in large part to last year’s half-billion package delivery increase stemming from Internet sales.

The I.I.I. study found the average cost per claim varies substantially across the country. While Arizona had only the ninth largest number of claims at 393, it registered the highest average cost per claim of the 10 states with the most claims: a staggering $56,654.

Insurance is an important aspect to being a responsible dog owner. When renting a property, dog owners need to make sure to have rental insurance because most landlords do not provide coverage should there be a dog bite incident. Homeowners also need to know what is covered under a standard homeowner policy related to dogs.

While an overwhelming majority of interactions with dogs don’t result in injury, most dog bites could be prevented by practicing responsible pet ownership. State Farm and members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition have joined forces to educate adults and children about ways to reduce dog-related injuries. Resources are available at the provided links.

• Do you have any experience with a dog bite claim? If so, please share any challenges or surprises about it on this thread: 1 of every 3 homeowners insurance claims are dog-related?

State Farm’s Top 10 States for Dog-Related Injury Claims in 2015

  1. California – 383 claims, $18.3 million paid
  2. Illinois – 338, $11.2 million
  3. Texas – 165, $4.9 million
  4. Pennsylvania – 161, $4.8 million
  5. Ohio – 149, $4.8 million
  6. New York – 147, $6.2 million
  7. Michigan – 126, $3.7 million
  8. Georgia – 114, $4.2 million
  9. Indiana – 110, $4.2 million
  10. Minnesota – 101, $3.6 million



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