Dog bite claims nationwide are going through the roof.
According to a news report in Business Week, the Insurance Information Institute states that the number of dog bite claims has increased almost 6 percent to 17,359, breaking the record for the number of claims set in 2003.
These dogs apparently accounted for more than a third of all homeowner’s insurance liability with an average cost per claim of $27,862 – up 45 percent over the past 10 years.
Changes in Policies Relating to Dogs
To put this number in perspective, it should be noted that about 4.5 million people get bitten by dogs each year, which means that the vast majority of bites don’t result in an insurance claim.
Even so, standard homeowner’s insurance policies are becoming stricter about dog-inflicted injuries and damage.
Though many insurers will cover property damage and medical bills up to $100,000 or $300,000 depending on the policy, a growing number of insurers are charging higher premiums for certain types of dog breeds or will only cover a dog if the owner taken the pet to behavior classes.
The breed of dog you own could also influence insurance coverage.
For example, Farmers Insurance in California started asking homeowners last year to sign a waiver of liability for dog bites if they owned a pit bull terrier, a Rottweiler or wolf hybrid.
Our legal practice has handled a number of cases involving these specific breeds.
Options for Dog Owners
Regardless of which state you live in, carrying an insurance policy that covers your pet is the responsible thing to do. There are also specialized firms such a Federation of Insured Dog Owners or FIDO that offer reasonable premiums that start at $75 a year with policy limits from $50,000 to $100,000.
The insurance covers any breed of dog and prices coverage on factors such as where the dog sleeps, who is around the dog and if the dog has had any behavior or obedience training. FIDO now has coverage in nine states including California, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which are all on the top 10 list for most dog bite claims in 2013.
Under California law, dog owners are responsible for injuries and damages caused by their pets. Injured victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cosmetic and other surgeries, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Victims would also be well advised to contact an experienced California personal injury attorney who has successfully handled dog bite cases.