Dog bite claims are on the rise nationwide
Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2013, costing more than $483 million, according to theInsurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States.
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased 5.5 percent in 2013, while the average cost per claim for the year dropped 6.4 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $27,862 in 2013 compared with $29,752 in 2012.
The increase in the number of claims may be attributable to non-bite injuries that are being captured in the analysis, which can include scratching, tripping, knocking down or frightening a person, the I.I.I. noted. These types of claims are typically less costly than dog bites which may require reconstructive surgery.
“The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 45 percent in the last decade (2003-2013), 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, vice president with the I.I.I. The study noted that California had the largest number of claims at 1,919 with an average cost per claim of $33,709. New York had the second highest number of claims at 965, but had the highest average cost per claim: $43,122.
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.
“All dogs have the potential to bite, but for most, biting is a last resort,” said Victoria Stilwell, star of Animal Planet's hit TV series It's Me or the Dog. “If time is taken to raise, teach and socialize a dog correctly, the likelihood of a bite incident occurring is extremely low, explained Stilwell, a passionate advocate for positive reinforcement training methods. “Confident dogs have less need to use aggressive behavior.”
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® (May 18-24, 2014), 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.
To reduce the chances of your dog biting someone, consider taking the following steps:
- 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.
- 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 people and animals.
- Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Play non-aggressive games with your dog, such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.
- Avoid 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.
The following organizations are committed to educating Americans about dog bite prevention:
• Issues Update:Dog Bite Liability
• Video: Preventing Dog Bites