Average Number of Dog Bite Claims Falls in 2012; Claims Costs Still on the Rise, Increasing by More Than 50 Percent Since 2003

Average Number of Dog Bite Claims Falls in 2012; Claims Costs Still on the Rise
May 21, 2012
Average Number of Dog Bite Claims Falls in 2012; Claims Costs Still on the Rise
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500; media@iii.org
 
NEW YORK, May 15, 2013 — Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, costing more than $489 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States.
 
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that while the number of claims fell by 1.4 percent in 2012—the first decline since 2010—the costs of settling dog bite claims continued to rise, by 1.2 percent, last year. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $29,752 in 2012 compared with $29,396 in 2011. The decline in the number of claims and increase in claim costs essentially offset one another so that total costs associated with dog bite claims in 2012 were virtually unchanged—down a mere 0.2 percent in 2012.
 
While a decrease in dog bite claims is good news, the rise in claims costs by even a small amount suggests that medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs are still on the upswing, according to the I.I.I. 

 

ESTIMATED NUMBER AND COST OF DOG BITE CLAIMS, 2003-2012

Year Value of claims
($ millions)
Number of claims Average cost
per claim
2003 324.2 16,919 $19,162
2004 319.0 15,630 20,406
2005 321.1 14,295 22,464
2006 322.3 14,661 21,987
2007 356.2 14,531 24,511
2008 387.2 15,823 24,461
2009 412.0 16,586 24,840
2010 412.6 15,770 26,166
2011 490.8 16,695 29,396
2012 489.7 16,459 29,752
Percent change, 2011-2012 -0.2% -1.4% 1.2%
Percent change, 2003-2012 51.4% -1.6% 55.3%

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm ®.

Be a Responsible Dog Owner
Even normally docile dogs may bite when they are frightened or when defending their puppies, owners or food. For information on dog-bite laws and protecting yourself with proper liability coverage see the following article: Dog Bite Liability.
 
However, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place. The most dangerous dogs are those that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training, irresponsible ownership and breeding practices that foster viciousness.
 
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® (May 19-25, 2013), is an annual event designed to provide consumers with information on how to be responsible pet owners while increasing awareness of a serious public health issue.
 
To reduce the chances of your dog biting someone, consider taking the following steps:
  • Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and neighborhood.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler. A dog with a history of aggression is inappropriate in a household with children.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful of or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
  • Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other people and animals.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
  • Play non-aggressive games with your dog, such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
  • Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
  • Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
 
The following organizations are committed to educating Americans about dog bite prevention:
 

RELATED LINKS

Background Paper: Dog Bite Liability
 
The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its You Tube Channel. Information about I.I.I. mobile apps can be found here.
 
 

 

THE I.I.I. IS A NONPROFIT, COMMUNICATIONS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED BY THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.
 
Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org