$15.5 million in insurance claims paid out in WA, OR and ID last year because of dog bites
SEATTLE, April 10, 2017 – For many households, dogs are a source of loyal and unconditional love and are, in most cases, “man’s best friend”. On the other hand, dogs also contribute to a substantial number of insurance claims. As part of Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 9-15), insurers are encouraging dog owners to get their pets properly trained to avoid unexpected attacks and costly dog bite claims.
In 2016, insurers in Washington paid 313 dog bite claims totaling $9.1 million. In Oregon, insurers paid 195 dog bite claims totaling $4.6 million, and in Idaho insurers paid 67 dog bite claims totaling $1.8 million. Nationally, injuries from dog bites account for one-third of all Homeowners insurance liability claims, costing $600 million in 2016 - up 18 percent from 2015, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The average cost of a dog bite claim last year was $33,230.
Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that need medical attention, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Children are the most common victims of dog bites, followed by senior citizens.
“For so many of us, our dogs are family, and millions of times each day, people and dogs interact happily, without any negative consequences,” said Kenton Brine, president of the NW Insurance Council. “And most of the time, dog bites can be prevented through education and responsible dog ownership.”
Homeowners and Renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability, which means that if a pet you own injures someone and they suffer an injury and/or seek damages, your insurance helps pay the cost of your defense and pay damages up to the limits of the policy. Most policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. If the claim exceeds the limit of a policy, the dog owner is responsible for any damages above that amount, including legal expenses.
It’s also important to contact your insurance agent to find out if your company insures your dog’s breed.
Most – but not all - insurance companies insure homeowners with dogs. Some companies exclude certain breeds from coverage while many focus on the individual dog’s behavior. Once your dog bites someone, however, most insurance companies recognize it as an increased risk. Your insurance company then may charge a higher premium, suggest you find the dog a new home, non-renew your Homeowners Insurance policy or exclude your dog from coverage.
“Every insurance company has its own underwriting guidelines,” Brine said. “But a dog with a history of biting will be harder to insure or, at minimum, will increase your cost for Homeowners insurance.”
Dog that are normally docile and friendly may bite if they become frightened or startled, or if they are defending their toys, food or puppies. NW Insurance Council offers these tips to help reduce the risk of your dog biting someone:
- Spay or neuter your dog. Studies show that dogs are three times less likely to bite if they have been neutered.
- Socialize your dog so that it becomes more comfortable around people and other animals. Also, always leash your dog in public so you are better able to maintain control.
- Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping, and always supervise children when they are around dogs.
- Play non-aggressive games such as fetch. Playing aggressive games like tug-of-war can encourage inappropriate behavior.
- Always ask an owner for permission before petting their dog, and make sure your children do the same before petting an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not approach a strange dog and avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
For more information on dog bites and insurance, visit NW Insurance Council or call (800) 664-4942.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.