8/10/2011 12:09 PM ET|
Fido's bite could cost $26,000
That's a lot of money to shell out, and it's not even the only consequence if your dog attacks. The good news? You can reduce your risk.
A dog is man's best friend -- loyal, protective and always ready to fetch your ratty slippers. But with a quick snap of his jaws, Fido can quickly become your wallet's worst enemy.
Last year, the average cost of a dog bite claim was $26,166, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
That could buy a lot of Alpo -- around 33,000 cans, in fact.
Insurance claims associated with dog bites actually slipped nearly 5% in 2010, according to III. But payouts associated with bites rose last year and have soared 37% since 2003.
Many dog lovers are in denial about the risk sleeping peacefully at their feet. Even a well-mannered dog can attack suddenly if it is startled or simply not feeling well.
In that sense, pit bulls have "gotten a bad rap" compared with other dogs, says State Farm Insurance spokeswoman Heather Paul.
"Any dog can bite -- small dogs, large dogs," she says.
Should you worry?
How much financial danger does your pooch pose? III says costs associated with dog bites are rising due to growing medical costs and larger settlements, judgments and jury awards.
As Paul says, "You certainly have a lot more attorneys out there that specialize in dog-bite attacks."
Your potential for legal and financial jeopardy also partially depends on where you live.
Under dog-bite statutes, owners are liable for all injuries or property damage their dog causes. Negligence laws make owners liable when someone is hurt as a result of the owner's failure to control the dog.
If you are deemed responsible for your dog's bad behavior, you could end up footing the cost of someone else's:
- Medical bills.
- Lost wages.
- Pain and suffering.
- Property damage.
Some states give you an initial break -- a sort of "free chomp" allowance -- commonly known as the "one-bite" rule. In these states, an owner cannot be held liable until the animal's "vicious propensity" has been established, typically in the form of a first bite.
Nearly two dozen states have adopted a form of the one-bite rule, most of them clustered in the western and south-central parts of the country.
Regardless of your local laws, a dog with a checkered history can sabotage your chances of getting home insurance.
In 2010, State Farm -- the nation's largest insurer -- paid out more than $90 million associated with nearly 3,500 dog bite claims.
The company recently released a list of the top 10 states for State Farm dog-bite claims. States with large populations dominated -- California came in first with 369 claims worth $11.3 million in 2010 -- but you also want to give a wide berth to dogs in Minnesota (No. 8 with 139 claims and $3.4 million in payouts) and Indiana (No.10 with 114 claims and $1.8 million in payouts).
Paul says State Farm makes judgments about dogs on a case-by-case basis. The insurer may overlook a past isolated incident where a dog jumped up and scratched someone.
But an unprovoked attack is more likely to result in a decision not to insure. In that case, forget about getting a State Farm policy until you "no longer have that dog in your residence," Paul says.
If you have a dog with a particularly nasty disposition, there are things you can do to cut your risk of being sued. Paul's tips include:
- Socialize your dog.
- If you keep a dog in the backyard or outside, get a fence. "Chains can break very easily," Paul says.
- Enroll your dog in obedience training.
Remember to exercise extra care whenever your dog is near a child. Kids make up half of all Americans who seek medical attention for dog bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The consequences of such attacks can be heartbreaking.
"Children tend to get bitten more in the face because they are lower to the ground and at dog level," Paul says.
Also, renters with pets should never go without renters insurance, Paul says. Too many renters assume that anything that happens on the property is the landlord's responsibility, she says.
"It's not up to the landlord to handle that claim," she says. "The cost falls on the renter."
While it's important for both homeowners and renters to lower their risk via insurance, using a little common sense is the best way to lower your risk of being the target of a dog-bite claim.
"Your best bet to avoid this issue is to be a responsible pet owner," Paul says.
This article was reported by Chris Kissell for Insurance.com.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
They started yelling at out friend to pick up the dog and run - this lady is a nut job. He figured, with witnesses, etc., no problem. Yea, right. She picks her cell phone again and again. Two ambulances show up. Three police cars, including animal control. Two family friends appear - both with video cameras.
Can you say setup? The police are ticked off - they thought there was a pack of wild dogs in the park because of "numerous calls." Turns out her friends and family also called the police.
So we wait and wait for a court date and to tell our side to the insurance company. We have seven firefighters as witnesses. Never hear a thing.
Then out homeowners insurance renewal arrives - at 200% of the previous rate. We call. "We had to pay out $35,000 for your dog attack." According to the insurance company, she had several friends as witnesses (huh?) and they all saw our dog jump on her and attack.
We dropped the insurance company. They NEVER asked for our side. If they are that stupid and gullible, they deserve to get nailed by a con-artist.
How about neutering the damn thing? Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involve male dogs, 94% of which are not neutered. I can't count the number of times I've heard some clueless male dog owner going on about how cruel it is to take the dog's manhood away. Won't seem so cruel after it bites a child and costs him thousands of dollars.
Oh, and lest you think your dog is properly controlled at all times and it won't happen to you, approximately two-thirds of bites occur on or near the victim’s property, and most victims know the dog.
(Source: American Humane Assoc.)
Thank you for the well written article that was finally non-breed specific and fact based.
To floridarattlesnake, your point will be missed because of the way you made it. Please be more careful next time. Putting up signs does not absolve you of responsibility for your actions or your dog's actions - ask any attorney. Also, your comments do nothing to support the 2nd Amendment.
I will say this - if you enter my property intending harm towards me or my family, you will meet my dogs (and they will likely not be friendly towards you in the least). If you make it past my dogs and I fear for the safety of myself or my children, you will have at least one (but probably more than a dozen) .40 cal hole(s) in your carcass.
That said, my dogs are "fixed". My dogs are trained. My dogs are socialized. And they're still dogs - so they are also watched like hawks at all times. And we have enough insurance to cover bites, but I prefer never to use it.
This article just tells us one more time that our legal system is a complete mess.
A $26,000 AVERAGE claim???
It is very rare for a bite to need real medical care other than band aids, tetnus and other shots. That can't be over $1000.
Even a few stitches won't break $3000. Tops.
Why are the claims higher now? That has nothing to do with the dog bites. They are the same as they were 500 years ago. Or at least 50.
It is just the legal system fleecing us again with the help of people who think you are entitled to a payday just because something bad happens.
"Children tend to get bitten more in the face because they are lower to the ground and at dog level,"
Another factor about kids getting bit is that parents don't teach their kids on how to approach a dog by first ASKING THE OWNER TO PET THEIR DOG!!! Then still keeping a distance to have their hand outstretched for the dog to sniff before they can pet them. My kids ages 8 & 5 know this and many people are very much impressed with them that they know what to do.
Ryan in Texas,
Bad things happen,,,,,then bad things happen due to NEGLIGENCE. I am a dog owner and my dogs (yorkies) are ALWAYS on a leash closely held to me. I also have dogs that I can manage as a woman. I dont let them near dogs that give off the impression that they are not in a friendly mood and I dont let them near people unless someone ASKS to pet my dogs.
I know a lady that owns a pitbull. She doesnt live on my block but walks her pit across the street from my bldg. The dog has a muzzle. Everytime someone comes out of my bldg to walk thier dog in that grass area, she tells them not to come across the street.until shes done. The area is pretty large. For one, the dog is too big/strong for her to handle, which is irresponsibility on her part. If you cannot restrain your dog when its excited/angry you should not have the dog. That being said, I gave her my two cents 1- this is not YOUR AREA so you cannot dictate who does and does not walk thier dog here and 2- If your dog is too strong for you, you are asking for a lawsuit. you KNOWINGLY walk a dog you cannot control.
In the second case, she will surely pay DEARLY for her ignorance. Thats where the $26K comes from. I dont own pitbulls because I physically cannot handle them in excitement. I love them but not in my physical power to have one. Its called being responsible.
When I was in college, I went to a friends house and his pit bull gored my arm. He was a nice guy, and didn't abuse the dog.
When my Border Collie was 2, I went to another friends house and his roommate was watching his girlfriend's pit bull which charged out the door as soon as it was opened to let us in and punctured my dogs skull before we could even do anything. She survived, bu not until several thousands of dollars of care.
two weeks ago, a pit bull charged from its resting place and slashed my 2 year old daughter's face as she was walking by. She will probably be scarred for life. It was a "nice dog" and treated well. So frigging what?
I am sorry, but as a dog lover who grew up with all manner of dogs, I am a dog racist. I have NEVER seen a pit bull story go well. It is a ticking time bomb. Sure, all dogs need to be trained, and even then, there are no gaurantees, and when you pick a dog, you have to be mindful of breed as well as social order (Alpha, Beta, submissive) too, an overlooked, very important fact, and guess what, the puppy that is super eager to crawl and chew on you over the other puppies is usually the ALPHA, and therefore can be more aggressive!!!
But Pits, I can look at three scarred figures, well, two now that my Border died a week before my daughter was attacked, and tell you three strikes: you are out.
Queen Bee - None of what you wrote explains why dog bites go down by 5% but payouts go up by double digits.
That clearly has nothing to do with the dog bites, but is an indictment of our messed up legal system.
Tort reform is needed now!
I have a buddy at work who had 2 pit bulls. They attacked a kid and I can assure you 26,000 would be a low figure in his case. Too many people a attacked by pit bulls every year. I use this analogy. You do not have to teach a lab to retreive. You do not have to teach a blood hound to track. You dont have to teach a pit bull to attack (people or dogs). They are bread for their purpose. You cannot take that out of them.
From an insurance standpoint I think it’s probably safe to say that while some of these breeds may not present huge differences in frequency of claims, there probably are significant differences in severity of the claims.
Don’t know that there is any data to support this, but would bet the ranch that a good % of dog bite claims result from these breeds. Not necesarily because there are more of them, but because the damage inflicted is more likely to result in a claim and the payout on that claim is likely to be greater than a bite inflicted by a breed without an in-bred trait to cause harm when they do bite.
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