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Bagen Law Blog

Increase in Dog Bites May Mean Higher Homeowner's Insurance Rates

Posted by Steven A. Bagen

May 25, 2012 6:29:00 AM

The majority of dog bites that occur around the United States, are negotiated between the dog owner, their insurance company and the victim. About 5 million U.S. Citizens are bitten annually, but only 16,000 claims are pay outs from insurance companies. Every year from May 19-25, we celebrate National Dog Bite Prevention Week. This annual celebration is designed to educate dog owners and consumers, on the proper way to prevent dog bites.

On an average, the cost of medical treatments has increased, but the treatment for dog bites has become exponential. Dog bite victims are no longer seeking treatment from general surgeons, but are going to plastic surgeons. As a result, insurance companies are paying out larger settlements in dog bite cases. These payments are notably cutting into the profits of insurance companies. If a homeowner is known to have dogs, then they are required to sign liability waivers for dog bites. If an owner's dog bites someone and they are off a leash, their premiums will increase or the insurance company can exclude their dog from coverage. As a result, many companies are considering not to cover dog bites at all or only covering certain breeds.

At present, one third of homeowners liability insurance claims are from dog bites. The Insurance Information Institute, has reported that nearly $500 million was paid in 2011, in dog bite liability claims. This is a 35 percent increase in claims from 2010 and has risen 48 per cent since 2003. Eighteen states have passed laws that give dog owners a reprieve on a dog's first bite. But a majority of other states, hold owners fully liable. The exception for these laws include dogs used in law enforcement activity or persons committing a crime who are bitten by guard dogs.

Topics: News, Serious Accidents & Injuries