New York Injury Law Blog

Cost of Dog Bite Insurance Payouts Drives up the Price of New Yorkers’ Homeowners’ Liability

Dog Bite Prevention Week has ended, but dog attacks remain a very real threat across New York and the United States.  Denver’s KUSA TV personality Kyler Dyer was bitten on live television in February by an 85 pound Argentine mastiff during a story about the rescued dog. While she is back on the air now, her recovery took over a month and involved 90 stitches and two operations, according to an article in the Democrat and Chronicle.  Unfortunately, it is terrible dog bite cases like this that continue to drive up insurance costs for Americans.

In fact, according to a new study by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims last year went to dog bite claims, costing the industry nearly $479 million in 2011.  The Institute reports U.S. insurers processed 16,292 dog bite claims last year.  The average cost paid out in 2011 was $29,396, up 12.3 percent from $26,166 in 2010.

DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims’ group dedicated to reducing and preventing serious dog attacks, reports that victims of serious dog attacks may require between $250,000 and $1,000,000 of specialized medical care to alleviate the pain and to rebuild damage after a dog bite. The I.I.I. said rising medical costs play a large part in the increase in the cost of claims.

The I.I.I. also attributes the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years, to the rising costs of claims. In an article in the USA Today, Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, pointed out that with the increasing number of people owning dogs, all in close quarters to each other, and the fact that parents are more likely to get advanced medical care for their children after a bite, dog bite payouts are bound to increase.

New York was the ninth top state for dog bite claims in 2011. State Farm paid out $6.1 million for 133 claims in the state. California was the top state in numbers of dog bites, with 527 claims resulting in $20.3 million in claims.  Some watching the industry fear insurers will no longer cover vicious dogs in homeowner policies or the costs will become prohibitive.  However, State Farm does not refuse insurance based on the breed of dog a customer owns in any U.S. state.

“Most dogs are friendly, loving members of the family but even normally docile dogs may bite when they are frightened or when protecting their puppies, owners or food,” according to the I.I.I. “Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place.”

If you are the victim of a dog bite in New York, you should not have to cover your medical costs on your own.  You are entitled to seek compensation for such medical expenses as the cost of emergency room visits, hospitalization, therapy, and, in many cases, plastic surgery. Reimbursement for lost wages and pain and suffering may also be available.

The I.I.I. reports that a dog bite lawsuit – even if won by the dog owner – can cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lost wages.”  It also reports that the more assets a person has, the higher the risk of an expensive lawsuit. For that reason, the I.I.I. suggests homeowners consider purchasing a personal excess liability policy.

Our Binghamton dog bite attorneys ask that all dog owners New York take appropriate measures to prevent others from being attacked and bitten by your dog.  We also ask all New Yorkers to be cautious when encountering an unknown dog.

About Scott C. Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney

Scott C. Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney handles all types of personal injury and motor vehicle accident cases, including cases involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles and boats. The firm also represents clients in actions for wrongful death, cancer misdiagnosis, dog bites, hunting accidents, birth injuries, brain injuries, construction accidents, fall down injuries and insurance settlements. The firm regularly employs accident reconstruction experts, investigators, photographers and economists to assist in evaluating and preparing personal injury cases. In 2008, the firm reached the $100-million mark in combined lifetime verdicts and settlements. The firm features offices in Binghamton, Elmira, Rochester, Syracuse and Watertown. For more information, call (800) TALK-LAW or use the firm’s online contact form.

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