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Factoring insurance into dog bite claims

A dog attack can result in physical trauma that, in addition to causing emotional distress, can also create large medical bills for California victims. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that for every five instances, one dog bite will result in a serious injury that merits medical attention. What’s more, roughly half of dog attack victims are children.

When something like this occurs, victims may often hold the dog owner responsible for the costs of medical care. When it comes to paying the bills, it is often a homeowner’s insurance policy that foots the bill. The Insurance Information Institute reports that dog bites cost $483 million in 2013, which accounted for more than 33 percent of all homeowners’ insurance claims.

The III reports that while the average cost per dog bite claim appears to be dropping, the number of claims has been steadily on the rise since 2010. California saw the most dog-bite related claims in the country in 2013, with 1,919 at an average cost per claim of $33,709. In total, all dog attack claims across the state were valued at $64.7 million.

Perhaps directly related to these exorbitant costs, there are insurance companies that will not cover homeowners if they own a dog that has been categorized as dangerous. California deems a dog as “potentially dangerous” if it has done the following:

  • Twice engaged in behavior over a 36-month period that requires someone to act defensively
  • Bitten a person and caused a “less severe” injury
  • Twice bitten, attacked or killed a domestic animal over a 36-month period

There are some insurance companies that also refuse policies based on certain breeds. Regardless of whether or not a dog owner has an insurance policy, victims of dog attacks do have the right to pursue compensation for medical bills and other damages.

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