Top 10 states where dog bites cost millions

Insurers, doctors and veterinarians are trying to trim the painful and costly number of canine-inflicted injuries. Here's where the tolls are highest.

By Bruce Kennedy May 17, 2013 12:04PM

Snarling dog (© Jonathan Kirn/The Image Bank/Getty Images)Next week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and health care specialists, veterinarians and the insurance industry are trying to get out the word about reducing dog bite incidents this year.


In 2011, about 70 million dogs were living in U.S. households, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, down from about 72 million in 2006. That means more than 36% of the population has canine companionship.


The downside to that statistic is the more than 4.7 million dog bites reported each year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 800,000 Americans seek medical attentional annually for dog bites. Of those injuries, nearly half require emergency room treatment. Dog bite rates are highest among children ages 5 to 9, and related fatalities average 16 a year.


Along with any physical and emotional damage, these incidents have financial costs. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that insurers paid out nearly $489 million in dog bite claims last year. Giant insurer State Farm says it dealt with 3,670 dog bite claims in 2012, paying out more than $108 million on them.


State Farm recently released a list of the top 10 states for dog bite claims in 2012:


State

 Number of claims

   Amount paid (est.)

1. California

  451

    $17.1 million

2. Illinois

  337

    $9.0 million

3. Texas

  236

    $4.3 million

4. Ohio

  235

    $5.0 million

5. Pennsylvania

  165

    $4.5 million

6. Michigan

  151

    $4.6 million

7. Indiana

  148

    $2.7 million

8. Florida

  123

    $7.1 million

9. Georgia

  121

    $3.3 million

10. New York

  116

    $6.4 million


Laws can vary regarding dog bites. Some states have what is known as the one free bite rule. That is, if a dog bites and injures someone -- and has never done so before -- the owner isn't liable for those injuries.


According to the Dog Bite Law website, the rationale behind the one-bite rule "was that domestic animals by definition were not injurious, and therefore liability could be predicated only on the defendant's knowledge that a particular animal had a propensity to behave in manner that was injurious to humans."


Most general liability provisions in a homeowners insurance policy will cover the owner for dog bites. However, some dogs can be excluded, according to San Diego law firm Laureti & Associates, if the dog "is a breed known to be, or (has) the propensity to be, dangerous."


State Farm says it doesn't refuse insurance based on the breed of dog a customer owns because "under the right circumstances, any dog might bite."


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24Comments
May 17, 2013 4:16PM
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i love dogs. all kinds. but...

 

dog bites are the #1 reason for visits to a plastic surgeon.

 

my advice:

 

if you don't know it really, really well OR if it's not your own dog, NEVER put your face near a dog's face.

 

people will sometimes get in a dog's face and smile. big mistake. the animal views your toothy grin as a sign of danger and may snap.

May 17, 2013 5:32PM
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How many dog owners say "Oh my dog will not bite!" Well my response is if it has teeth it can and will bite given the correct circumstances. The biggest problem is not the dog but the owner. People let their dogs run loose, do not keep them on a leash and numerous other careless owner behaviors. My next door neighbor lets their dog run loose. When I go in my own yard their  dog is often there and barks are me. We have had several conversations about this to no avail.

 

So if their dog bites anyone in my family in my yard I will sue the hell out of them, it appears that is the only way they will get a clue.

May 17, 2013 5:24PM
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I pulled, by its collar, a 70 lb male pit bull off my English Springer and luckily he was people friendly.

I reacted in less than 3 seconds in which I yelled while I held down the bruiser until the owner arrived.  I was

friendlier than I should have been to the owner; however, there was no damage to my dog only the

fact that I was shaken by the experience.  I called the dog control officer and he went to the

house to explain that they must secure the dog in the back yard by anyway possible.  The officer said that

I was the first person that their dog was not injured by a pit bull.  The owner said that the jumped off a 2nd story balcony... which I doubt.  Anyway, now I carry a small can of pepper spray and a large can of maze just in case by luck goes the other way.  By the way, my dog had been attacked by labs, schnauzers, Dobermans, French Bull dogs and terriers.  Pepper spray is the most effective

but least harmful to deal with less than friendlier animals.

May 17, 2013 2:01PM
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I was bit by a dog at work. It was a coworker who brought his dog to work because of neighbor complaints about the dog barking when he was not home. I had to go to the doctor because it became a workmen's comp. issue. I was fine but my company wasn't and neither was the workmen's comp insurance company. Needless to say he has some problems at work.

 

People do stupid things when it comes to pets. I have a dog jump through a screen door and bite people as they walk down public sidewalks. I have gotten out of my cay only to find a snarling dog trying to get me only two feet away. This was in a grocery store parking lot.  Didn't realize it when I parked. Apparently we have to beware of the dog even if we are in public areas.

 

They say guns don't kill it people.. In the same sense I think pets are ok but its there stupid owners.

May 19, 2013 4:48PM
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I totally agree my wife should have sued but, that is why she is who she is and I am who I am and one of the reasons we are scheduled to get a divorce on May 28th. Her way of thinking also, caused me a 6 figure job as well so, lose lose situation. As they say in France, C'est la Vie.
May 18, 2013 12:43AM
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 Bites are not the only problem. Even the best trained dogs and cats will still "miss the pot" now and then. As they get older, the more they miss, until it is a burden to clean up after them. Then what? Many people tend to "live with it", meaning the poorly cleaned up messes and got used to the smell and do not recognize it. As a result, too many children live in very poor standards.
 Seat belt laws are to protect the innocent and the ratio is similar. If seat belt laws are reasonable, then laws against home ownership of dogs and cats in the city limits should be standard nation wide! 
 I live in the country and do not have a dog and my cat stays outside year round. I do not live in a barn and do not intend to! Ever hear of fleas?
May 17, 2013 7:22PM
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This doesn't seem to be where the cost of a dog bite is higher but possibly where there are so many people that don't pay attention to leach laws nor train their dogs that there are more claims.  I see something in common with some of these top states.  Do you?
May 17, 2013 4:25PM
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My wife was bitten by a red-nose pit bull male. She almost had her calf ripped off and wears a large scar on her leg now where the skin was ripped as well as the scarr from the tissue that was grafted to cover the area that was bitten. It was down to the muscle and ligaments. We had over 500,000 in homeowners insurance at the time. I don't know what the homeowner had. My wife decided not to sue. She said,"The owner had children and she did not want to hurt their family financially by suing". This dog had bitten others before and I believe we could have recieved a considerable sum for her damages. She was in a tremendous amount of pain and recovery from this incident and still makes remarks of how ugly her leg is due to the bite and scar it left.
May 17, 2013 12:30PM
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Dog bites can be tricky when trying to sue somebody. Who do you think is at fault in the following examples:
1. Someone breaks into another persons house who has a dog and the dog bites them.
2. Someone kicks a dog on a leash and the dog bites them
3. an owner lets there dog off the leash in a area where they are required to have a leash and the dog bites somebody.
What determines what is a bite? breaking the skin? My sister was bitten by a dog as in example 3 (she was 9 at the time) and we had the dog put down. 
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Well make pitbulls illegal, have mandatory yearly evaluations to make sure the dogs aren't overly aggressive and if they are take them away and make these dipsh*ts who let their dogs do anything they want be banned from owning them. Half those in PA are damned pitbulls in the ghettos. We need more dog laws: especially barking ones. Around here the animal control guy tells you to call the cops and the cops tell you to call animal control if a dog is barking. We have to listen to the dog next door for hours on end and the db who owns him thinks its funny.
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