Cost per claim soars to more than $37,000 per bite
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.
The study noted that California continued to have the largest number of claims in the U.S. at 1,684 in 2015, a decrease from 1,867 in 2014. Illinois had the second highest number of claims at 931. 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.
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 U.S. Post Office worker attacks, many of which take place at the customer’s door.
Be a responsible dog owner
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.
“The majority of dog bites come from dogs we already know, and the largest groups are children and the elderly,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a veterinary professor at Texas A&M University, and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
“Dogs not raised with good social skills can become dogs that bite,” said Beaver, who is internationally recognized for her work in the normal and abnormal behaviors of animals. “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 ever be left together unsupervised. Not only can the child get hurt, but so does the dog because they are the ones that get put down.”
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® (May 15–21, 2016), is an annual event designed to provide consumers with information on how to be responsible pet owners while increasing awareness of a serious public health issue.
Taking the following steps can reduce the chances of your dog biting someone:
- Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and neighborhood.
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler. A dog with a history of aggression is inappropriate in a household with children.
- Keep the family dog secured if a stranger comes to your door.
- Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful of or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
- Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other animals and people.
- Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Be cautious when exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
- Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
- Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists or responsible breeders if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
Source: Insurance Information Institute