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Injuries From Dogs Take a Big Bite Out of Insurance Company Payouts

Dog growling at man's hands

According to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance, dog bites take a huge chunk out of the money insurance companies pay out each year. The latest figures show in 2013 insurance companies paid out over $483 million to settle claims related to dog related incidents. This is more than a third of the total amount home insurance companies were required to pay for liability claims. And the number of claims appears to be trending upwards. The number of dog bite related claims in 2013 was 5.5% more than in 2012.

Analysis of the dog bite claims data suggests the reason for the continued upward trend in the number of suits is related to claims for non-bite injuries. Apparently more people are suing for injuries they sustain when they are frightened, knocked down, scratched, or tripped by dogs. Settling these claims cost about $2,000 less per incident on average, $27,862 vs. $29,752, because dog bites often require the victim to have reconstructive surgery. Still, the sheer number of claims is taking a big bite out of the total amount of money insurance companies pay to injured parties.

While the cost of paying the claims showed a slight drop between 2012 and 2013, the cost of medical care and the size jury awards, judgments, and settlements to plaintiffs has risen almost 50% over last 10 years. In New York, which averages the highest cost per claim, each incident cost the insurance company a little over $43,000. Multiply that by the 965 claims insurance companies paid in New York and it becomes really expensive. Add to that California’s 1,919 claims, the largest number by any state, at $33,709 per claim and you begin to see why insurance companies are paying attention.

Dog related insurance claims were on the rise all over the country in 2013. In Ohio there were 956 claims (average cost, $18,863). Illinois had 914 claims (average cost: $28.941). Pennsylvania had 909 claims (average cost: $29,078). In Michigan 866 people made claims at an average cost of $24,700 per claim. Then there was Texas with 775 at an average of $19,339 each. Indiana’s 503 claims cost an average of $25,502 each. People in Arizona made 488 claims and the insurance company paid them about $27,556 each time. Even Wisconsin had 449 claims costing about $31,629 each.

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