New Report Shows Record Number of Dog Bite Injury Claims

Insurance Policies and Dog-Inflicted Damage

How often do severe dog bite injuries occur?  According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, dog bite claims are on the rise across the country.  To be sure, data collected by the Insurance Information Institute showed that insurance claims related to animal attack injuries rose by nearly six percent last year, for a total of 17,359 claims.  This figure set a new record established back in 2003.

Across the country last year, aAmerican-Pit-Bull-Terrierverage dog bite insurance claims resulted in payments of about $28,000.  That is up by nearly 45 percent over the last ten years.  And to give this figure another spin, dog bite claims account for more than 33 percent of “all homeowners insurance liability-claim dollars paid out in 2013.”

In response, homeowners insurance policies are getting stricter when it comes to dog-inflicted damage.  Indeed, many insurance companies are charging higher premiums for homeowners with dogs, particularly when they are of a certain breed (such as pit bulls).  Other insurance companies will not cover dog-inflicted damage unless the homeowner has taken his or her dog to pet behavior classes.

California Leads the Pack in Dog Bite Injuries

It may not be surprising to many California residents that dog bite claims have spiked over the last year.  News sources across the state have reported on gruesome animal attacks that left victims in critical condition, according to an article from CBS Sacramento.  For instance, in early October a Modesto woman was attacked by four pit bulls inside her home.  When a relative arrived at the house, that relative also sustained dog bite injuries.  Both victims were reported to be in critical condition.

An article in Reuters recently reported that a man from Southern California whose pit bulls mauled a 63-year-old woman to death was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for second-degree murder.  The victim, Pamela Devitt, was out for a morning walk when the dogs attacked her.  She suffered approximately 200 puncture wounds, according to the report, and died as a result of blood loss.

In 2013 alone, insurance companies in the state of California paid out about $65 million in relation to dog bite claims.  The average of each claim was nearly $34,000.  Why are these settlements so pricey?  In many cases, California’s strict liability law may play a role.  What is strict liability?  In short, a dog owner is responsible for any bad action committed by the dog, regardless of any mitigating circumstances.  In other words, even if the owner was not clearly at fault, that owner is still liable.  So, for instance, if a dog jumps through a screen and attacks a child on the street, the owner is likely still liable for the dog’s behavior.  In a strict liability claim, the victim must only show that the injury occurred, and not that the owner did something wrong or negligent.

If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a dog bite accident, you should know that you may be eligible for financial compensation.  Dog bites occur with some frequency in California, and the experienced San Diego dog bite lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today.  Contact us to learn more about how we can assist with your dog bite claim.

Photo Credit: Wonka123 via morgueFile

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