Increase in Dog Bite Claims

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Claims resulting from dog bites on personal property accounted for a major portion of homeowner insurance liability claims in the US in 2009.  According to the US Insurance Information Institute, dog bite claims cost American home insurers 6.4% more than in 2008.  The average claim exceeded $24,000 for the third year in a row.  In 2009, dog bite claims cost insurers $412 million, compared to $387 million just one year before.  There was also an increase in the number of insurance claims for dog bites in 2009, compared to 2008.  The number increased by 4.8% over the previous year to a total of 16,586 claims. 

According to the Institute, dog bite claims now account for more than one third of all homeowner insurance liberty claims.  In fact, dog bite claims account for one in three homeowner’s insurance liability claims.

One of the reasons for this increase is that many states in the US have now passed strict liability statutes for dog bites.  California, for instance, has a strict liability statute.  That means that any dog owner can be held responsible for injuries or deaths caused by his animal, even if it was the animal’s very first such bite, or if the owner had never known of the animal’s propensity to bite.  Approximately one-third of all states in the country have such strict liability statutes.  All the other states have a “one bite free” principle, whereby a dog owner can get away with a first dog bite attack involving his animal, by showing that he was unaware of his dog’s propensity to bite. 

Some insurance companies are trying to push back against the spike in dog bite claims, by requiring that homeowners sign a liability waiver clause in their insurance.  Other insurers are insisting that they will provide coverage only if the dog is sent to behavior classes.

Los Angeles dog bite lawyers feel that insurer concern may be overblown.   The fact is that the number of dog bite claims every year is less than 1% of the total number of dog bite attacks in the US annually.


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