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Dog Owners Feeling Bite of Higher Insurance Costs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States 4.7 million people are victims of dog bites. Of those people attacked about 900,000 are forced to seek medical attention. In California, the responsibility for the attack falls squarely on the dog's owner. If found responsible, the owner could be required to pay for the victim's medical costs and lost wages. Insurance Companies pay the majority of these claims, and are passing the increased costs to their policyholders, and limiting coverage.

Insurance companies are paying more for dog bite incidents. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), home insurers paid 6.4 percent more for these accidents in 2009 than they did in 2008. That's $412 million last year compared to $387.2 million in the year before. For the third year in a row, the average dog bite claim exceeded $24,000. In addition, the number of claims made on dog bites in 2009 increased 4.8 percent to 16,586, up from 15,790.

2013 Update:  Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid in 2013, costing more than $483 million, according to I.I.I. and State Farm Insurance.

As medical expenses for victims of dog bites continue to rise, so too do the costs of these claims to insurance companies.  To cover their backs, some insurance companies are changing their policies.  Some may require dog owners to sign a waiver excluding them from coverage for dog bit attacks.

While these dog bite accidents are becoming more and more frequent, personal injury attorneys are seeing fewer and fewer of these types of cases. Why? Personal injury attorney Jack Bloxham explains, "It is getting more difficult to collect on these claims. Insurance companies are limiting their coverage, or excluding them altogether. That makes for fewer claims that we can collect on, even if the homeowner is responsible. And even if the homeowner is made to pay, the result is often less money to the victim."

According to Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, "The responsibility for properly training and controlling a dog rests with the owner." This is the stance that insurance companies are taking on dog bite claims as well. In light of these facts, the best advice for dog owners is to be sure to have your dog trained, especially if it is an aggressive breed. Otherwise, if your dog attacks someone you may be the one that has to pay, because your insurance company certainly won't want to.

Related Content:  Dog Bite Plaintiff Attorney

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