Dog Bite Claims on the Rise

Posted by Benji Riggins on June 1, 2012 under Claims | Be the First to Comment

Dog bite claims increased 16 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and have grown close to 48 percent since 2003, according to figures released by the insurance industry.

On the eve of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. released figures indicating that dog bites are costing the insurance industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

I.I.I. says that, in 2011, dog bite claims amounted to close to $479 million with a total of 16,292 claims filed.

I.I.I. says the increase can be attributed to “increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years.”

According to Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm, the company paid more than $109 million in claims resulting from 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011.

California was number one on State Farm’s list for dog bite claims and money paid out, with 527 claims for an estimated $20 million. Illinois was second with 309 claims and $10 million.

In conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs May 20-26, the U.S. Postal Service released its list of the top 25 dog-attack city rankings.

Los Angeles was number one with 83 attacks, followed by San Diego with 68 and Houston with 47.

The Postal Service says that, nationwide, there were more than 5,577 postal workers attacked in 1,400 cities. The attacks on workers cost the Postal Service close to $1.2 million last year.

According to the center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 4.7 million people bitten by a dog each year and 800,000 seek medical attention for their bites. Of those bitten, more than half are children.

As part of a campaign, the participants in National Dog Bite Prevention Week have issued a series of tips to reduce the risk of dog bites.

Among the steps:
•Socialize your dog so it know how to act with other people and animals.
•Discouraging children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
•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.

By Mark E. Ruquet, PropertyCasualty360.com

Dog Bite Claims Top $400M in 2009; Rise 30% in Last 6 Years

Posted by Benji Riggins on August 18, 2010 under Claims | Be the First to Comment

Dog bite claims cost the insurance industry $412 million in 2009, an increase of 6.4 percent from 2008.

Dog bites account for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2009, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the average cost of dog bite claims was $24,840 in 2009, up slightly from $24,461 in 2008.

Over the six-year period since 2003, the cost of these claims has risen nearly 30 percent. Additionally, the number of claims increased by 4.8 percent to 16,586 in 2009 from 15,823 in 2008.

“The rise in dog bite claims over the last seven years (2003-2009) can be attributed to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years,” said Loretta Worters, vice president at the I.I.I.

With more than 50 percent of bites occurring on the dog owner’s property, the issue is a major source of concern for insurers.

More than 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs annually, and nearly 900,000 of those, half of them children, require medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about 16 die.

The rate of dog bite related injuries is highest for children aged five to nine years old; the rate decreases thereafter. Almost two-thirds of these injuries among children ages four years and younger are to the head or neck region. Injury rates in children are significantly higher for boys than for girls.

Dog Owner Liability

There are three kinds of law that impose liability on owners:

1. Dog-bite statute: The dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes, even without provocation.

2. “One-bite” rule: In some states, the owner is not held liable for the first bite the dog inflicts. Once an animal has demonstrated vicious behavior, such as biting or otherwise displaying a “vicious propensity,” the owner can be held liable. Some states have moved away from the one-bite rule and hold owners responsible for any injury, regardless of whether the animal has previously bitten someone.

3. Negligence laws: The dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because he or she was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.

In most states, dog owners are not liable for losses incurred by trespassers who are injured by a dog. A dog owner who is legally responsible for an injury to a person or property may be responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage.

Source: I.I.I.

Read more: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2010/08/18/112569.htm#ixzz0wzM9uvSO

Dog Bites Insurers

Posted by Benji Riggins on December 11, 2009 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

A recently released report from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) produced some eye-opening statistics regarding dog bites. According to the study, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims, costing $387.2 million in 2008, up 8.7 percent from 2007.

An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the average cost of dog bite claims was $24,461 in 2008 (the most recent figures available) down slightly from $24,511 in 2007. Since 2003, however, the cost of these claims has risen nearly 28 percent. Additionally, the number of claims has increased 8.89 percent annually to 15,823 in 2008 from 14,531 in 2007.

From an insurance and personal safety perspective, dog ownership seems to be a place where risk management can be helpful in reducing the exposure to injury. Avoidance is the most obvious approach. Statistically 61 percent of dog bites occur at the owner’s home; and 77 percent are by the dog of a family member or family friend.

Is it the Owner or the Breed?

In September 2000, a Vet Med Today Special Report (JAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000) listed the dog breeds most responsible for the 282 bite-related fatalities between 1979 and 1998. The top five breeds (themselves responsible for 64.9 percent of all dog-bite fatalities) were:

  1. Pit bull (26.95 percent of all fatalities);
  2. Rottweiler (15.6 percent of all fatalities);
  3. German Shepherd;
  4. Husky; and
  5. Malamute.

Many people love and want dogs and there is some indication that pet ownership is healthy, especially for senior citizens.  Dogs also provide security for persons and property. Those who choose to own a dog must apply other risk management steps to make dog ownership safer as well as enjoyable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta suggest that:

  • Owners should carefully choose your pet dog by evaluating the environment and lifestyle. Potential owners should speak with a professional to determine the appropriate type of pet.
  • Dogs should be neutered to reduce aggressive tendencies.
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog. 
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog.
  • Children be taught basic safety around dogs (and reviewed regularly).
  • Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate for families with children.
  • Owners should not play aggressive games with their dog (i.e. wrestling).
  • If bitten, the bite should be reported immediately.

Dog Owner Liability

States differ on how they legally view dog bites. There are three kinds of law that govern the liability or responsibility imposed on dog owners:

  • Dog-bite statute: The dog owner is automatically (or strictly) liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes, even without provocation (a trespasser or someone committing a crime may be exceptions).
  • “One-bite” rule: In approximately 18 states, the owner is not held liable for the first bite the dog inflicts. Once an animal has demonstrated vicious behavior, such as biting or otherwise displaying a “vicious propensity,” the owner can be held liable. Some states have moved away from the absolute application of the one-bite rule and at times hold owners responsible for any injury, regardless of whether the animal has previously bitten someone. These are known as “mixed dog bite statute states” as they apply a mixture of the “one-bite” rule and the strict liability of the previously listed dog-bite statute.
  • Negligence laws: The dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.

In most states, dog owners are not liable to trespassers who are injured by a dog. A dog owner who is legally responsible for an injury to a person or property may be responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage.

Insurer Response

Claims frequency and costs from dog bites have escalated.  Insurers, who are usually responsible for these costs under Homeowners policies, are now taking this problem very seriously.  In most states the Homeowners’ program has no provisions for excluding the legal responsibility for dog bites and no provisions for charging additional premiums for the increased exposure.  Consequently, insurers must underwrite around the exposure.  This means not accepting risks where there is a known increased exposure and deciding not to renew risks when the underwriter becomes aware of an exposure after initial acceptance.  Many insurers are attempting to underwrite the dog exposure by identifying the breed of the dog in question and assessing the extent to which the exposure is increased.

Christopher J. Boggs, CPCU, ARM, ALCM, LPCS, AAI, APA, CWCA, CRIS

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