The amount of money paid out for homeowner insurance claims for dog bites has spiked in recent years, despite the fact that the actual number of claims has remained about the same.
Our Montgomery dog bite lawyers understand that in 2012, one-third of all homeowner insurance claims paid out were for dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The release of the information came on the heels of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, late last month.
Across the country, dog bite claim numbers have remained steadily between about 14,300 and 17,000, with the total in 2012 tallied at roughly 16,500. The lowest number was in 2005, when there were about 14,300 claims filed.
Last year, dog bite claims accounted for nearly $490 million in insurance liability payouts. However, in 2003, when several hundred more actual dog bite claims were filed, the payout was about $325 million. The rate has increased by more than 50 percent, which surpasses the rate of inflation. Average payouts for a dog bite claim went from about $19,000 to about $30,000 in the last decade.
This is not to say that dog bite victims are scoring an impressive payday. The reality is that the cost of medical care has also risen. Depending on the severity of the injury, it could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars when you factor in emergency medical care, surgery, follow-up treatments, therapy and medication.
The Alabama Veterinary Medical Association reported there were approximately 7,000 dog bites in Alabama last year. The majority of those, the association says, occurred during everyday activities and most often affected young children who were interacting with familiar dogs.
Insurance companies are reacting to these kinds of claims by restricting coverage for individuals who have already had a dog bite someone or for those who have a dog in a breed that is considered high-risk. There are a few states that ban breed-specific legislation (Alabama isn't one of them). But even in most of those places, insurers aren't barred from formulating policy coverage based on the breed of dog one chooses to own.
Of course, any dog can bite. You can have an aggressive Maltese and a Pit Bull who is a gentle giant. Most of it comes down to training and consistency in following local leash law ordinances.
Still, it's important especially for families with young children to carefully weigh which breed will make the most sense for their lifestyle. Finding a good match will mean less stress for the animal, which can lessen the possibility of the dog lashing out through bites.
If you are looking for a dog that is laid back, the American Kennel Club recommends:
- Bulldogs. These dogs are medium-sized, gentle, protective and form strong bonds with children. They require minimal exercise and grooming and prefer to stay indoors during hot weather.
- Bullmastiff. This is a strong dog that grows large, but it is a breed well-suited to families. They don't require much exercise, but they can be quite stubborn, so early, consistent training is important.
- Pugs. These dogs are known to be playful, willing to please and social. They require minimal exercise and grooming.
- Chihuahua. These are great dogs for the city because of their size. They are intelligent and loyal.
- French Bulldog. These dogs are known to be personable and affectionate.