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Cost of Homeowner Insurance Payout for Dog Bites Increases

Our Lexington dog bite lawyers report on the cost of homeowner insurance payout for dog bites.

More than 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites every year, according to the American Humane Society (AHS), with more than half of the victims being children. Youngsters are out of school and play outdoors more in the summer, so the odds of encountering a dog and getting bitten increase dramatically.

Not only can dog bites cause a great deal of pain and suffering, they are becoming more expensive to treat every year. In fact, dog bite injuries cost more than $530 million in insurance claims in 2014, accounting for a third of all homeowner insurance liability claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm.

The average cost per claim rose 15 percent to $32,072 compared to $27,862 the previous year, the institute reported.

Since 2003, the cost per claim has jumped more than 67 percent because of rising medical expenses and the growing size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to dog bite victims, according to Loretta Worters, vice president of the institute.

The rising cost of these claims is also linked to children, bicyclists and senior citizens being knocked down by dogs and suffering fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries, according to the institute.

California reported the most claims, 1,867, last year with an average cost of $33,649.  New York, with 910 claims, had the highest cost per claim at $56,628. Outside of the top 10 states, the average cost per claim was $32,124, including Kentucky.

Preventing Bites

Even well-trained dogs may bite when provoked. Instances include being disturbed while eating, sleeping or taking care of puppies, the Humane Society reports.

Dogs also are more likely to bite if someone invades their territory. The U.S. Postal Service reported 5,581 employee attacked by dogs in 2013.  Children, seniors and postal carriers are most often bitten.

Poor training, irresponsible ownership and questionable breeding are most likely to create vicious animals.

Follow these steps to keep your dog from biting:

  • Talk to a professional such as a veterinarian, animal behaviorist or responsible breeder to find out the most suitable breed of dog for your home.
  • Before acquiring a dog, spend some time with it to find out about its personality. Be careful about bringing a dog into a home with an infant or young child, especially if the animal is known to show aggression.
  • Pay attention to clues indicating that your child is afraid of dogs, and never leave a dog alone with infants or toddlers.
  • Teach your dog social skills so it will interact better with other dogs and people.
  • Tell children to avoid disturbing a dog while it eats or sleeps.
  • When your dog enters an unknown situation, be cautious.
  • Do not approach strange dogs, and if an animal is growling or threatening, avoid making eye contact.
  • If a dog starts acting aggressively or showing unwanted behavior, consult an expert immediately.

Local Law

In Lexington and Fayette County, all dogs are to be licensed at six months and receive rabies vaccinations at four months. Licenses are $8 for a spayed or neutered animal and $40 for an unaltered dog or cat, according to the city’s website. Licenses are good for a year.

All Fayette County dogs are to be on a leash, in a fenced area or on the owner’s property under the owner’s supervision. They aren’t allowed to run loose, even when under the voice command of the owner, and they must wear current license and rabies tags.

Four dog parks are available in Fayette County where dogs can run without a leash: Masterson Station Park, Jacobsen Park, Coldstream Park and Wellington Park.

The local government also has rules to control barking dogs, and dog owners are required by law to clean up after their pets. Pet waste on public or unowned private land is to be sanitarily and properly discarded in a trash receptacle, according to the “Pooper Scooper” ordinance.

Owning a dog is a serious responsibility; it requires years of training, care and upkeep. And despite the best efforts, you or your children can be bitten by your own dog or another, especially if its owner doesn’t take proper safety precautions to prevent dog bites.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, please talk to a Lexington dog bite lawyer about your legal rights to seek compensation.