Are Dog Bite Claims Really a Big Deal?

June 04, 2018
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Liability claims are very costly, especially in a sue-happy state like California. It is important to have sufficient liability coverage on your property insurance in case somebody gets injured on your property. This is vital on homeowner's policies but extremely important on renter's insurance policies as well.

The five most common home liability claims are:

  1. Home Accidents
  2. Falling Trees
  3. Intoxicated Guests
  4. Injured Domestic Workers (including the guys that cut your lawn)
  5. Dog Bites

In fact, dog bites accounted for more than 1/3 of all homeowner liability claim dollars paid in 2017, a total just under $700 Million. The number of dog bite claims increased nationwide from 18,122 in 2016 to 18,522 in 2017 which is an increase of 2.2 percent. That seems reasonable doesn't it? But the average cost paid out on dog bite claims increased 11.5 percent from 2016 to 2017. The average cost of a dog claim in 2017 was $37,051. Still don't think you need that liability coverage on your property policy?

The top three states in the number of dog bite claims are Florida, Pennsylvania, and of course, number one is California.

Why has the average cost per claim increased 11.5 percent from 2016 to 2017?

It could be because of the severity of the injuries (people suffering harsher and more severe dog bites). But the average cost per dog claim across the nation has risen over 90 percent from 2003 to 2017! Dog bites may be getting more severe but that doesn't explain such a dramatic increase.

The real reason that the average cost per claim has gone up so dramatically nationally since 2003 is the increase in medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards given to plaintiffs. Can you see now why California is number one on the list?

California had the largest number of dog bite claims in 2017 at 2,228. California also had the highest value of dog bit claims in 2017 at $90.4 Million. Florida was a distant 2nd place in the number of claims but the average cost per claim was slightly higher than California.

So here is a fun contest regarding animals vs. vehicles (not fun for the animals or the drivers though). The top five animals involved in vehicle collisions in 2017 were:

  1. Deer
  2. Raccoons
  3. Dogs
  4. Turkeys
  5. ??

If you think you know the answer, send me an e-mail at ken@kenmayinsurance.com and I will publish the name of the winner on our Facebook page.

--Ken May