NEW YORK – Dog bites (and other dog-related injuries) accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2014, costing in excess of $530 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States.
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 4.7% in 2014, the average cost per claim for the year was up 15%. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 in 2014, compared with $27,862 in 2013.
"The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67% from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing," said Loretta Worters, vice president with the I.I.I.
The study noted that California continued to have the largest number of claims in the U.S. at 1,867. Ohio had the second highest number of claims at 1,009. While New York had only the third highest number of claims at 965, it registered the highest average cost per claim in the country: a startling $56,628. The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not simply to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, etc., all of which can result in fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses.
States with highest numbers and average cost of claims
Top 10: 8,090; $32,018 avg. cost per claim
Other States: 8,460; $32,124
U.S. Total: 16,550; $32,072
Source: I.I.I.; State Farm
Dog owners often at fault
The most dangerous dogs are those that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training, irresponsible ownership and breeding practices that foster viciousness.
"All dogs have the potential to bite, but for most, biting is a last resort," said Victoria Stilwell, star of Animal Planet's hit TV series It's Me or the Dog. "If time is taken to raise, teach and socialize a dog correctly, the likelihood of a bite incident occurring is extremely low," explained Stilwell, a passionate advocate for positive reinforcement training methods. "Confident dogs have less need to use aggressive behavior."
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® (May 17-23, 2015), is an annual event designed to provide consumers with information on how to be responsible pet owners while increasing awareness of a serious public health issue.