This Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, many are feeling a renewed sense of hope as COVID-19 infection rates fall and vaccinated individuals are given the green light to travel.
Over 37 million Americans are planning trips of more than 50 miles from their homes this weekend, according to AAA, an increase of more than 60 percent from last year, but still 6 million fewer than 2019’s pre-pandemic travelers on the same weekend.
Drivers are reminded to exercise caution on the roads, as Memorial Day has some of the highest auto accident rates, with alcohol consumption as a major contributing factor.
Triple-I recently spoke with Forbes magazine about avoiding some of the other hazards of summer, including car theft, grill fires, and dog bite liability.
We hope that you take the extra precautions outlined in the Forbes article — as well as review your insurance coverage – and have a safe, healthy summer.
Pandemic-related lockdowns have led many people to bring new furry friends into their homes.
A survey from the Insurance Research Council (IRC), found that 21 percent of homeowners reported adopting a dog in 2020.
Despite the increase in the number of dogs in American homes, homeowners dog bite (and related injury), claims fell overall by 4.6 percent in 2020 from the previous year, to 16,990 from 17,800 nationally, according to Triple-I and State Farm analysis.
March had the most dog-related injury claims last year, when people first went into lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Farm. Dog bites were up 21.6 percent from the previous March, likely due to dogs dealing with owner stress, disruption in routines and more people around the house throughout the day. Experts fear another disruption—this time cause by the easing of restrictions for activities outside the home—could lead to another spike in bites.
Though the overall number of claims decreased, the total cost of claims increased by 7.1 percent to $853.7 million, up from $796.8 million in 2019. And the average cost per claim increased 12.3 percent to $50,245, up from $44,760 in 2019.
Dog bite related claims costs have been climbing for years. The average cost per claim nationally has risen 162 percent from 2003 to 2020, due to increased medical costs and the upward trend in the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards.
Claims costs are attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, and the elderly, which can result in costly injuries.
The latest Triple-I dog bite claim figures are released in conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an event held each year to help reduce the number of dog bites.
Children are particularly at risk for dog bites and are more likely to be severely injured, so it’s essential for parents to teach their kids to be safe around strange dogs and their own pets.
Dog training is, of course, key to preventing dog bites and related injuries for everyone, and National Dog Bite Prevention Week’s organizers offer many practical tips. This year, dog experts are particularly focused on re-socializing animals that have been isolated along with their humans for the past year.
To provide more tips for pet owners, members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition— which includes the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), State Farm, Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), American Humane and Victoria Stilwell Positively— will be hosting a Facebook Live event on Monday, April 12, at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Triple-I recommends that you check your homeowners or renters insurance policy to be sure it covers liability for dog bites and related injuries. Click here for more details about dog bite liability insurance.
In its analysis, the I.I.I. found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 7.2 percent in 2015, the average cost per claim for the year was up 16 percent.
The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $37,214 in 2015, compared with $32,072 in 2014 and $27,862 in 2013.
In fact, the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 94 percent since 2003.
Why is this?
Loretta Worters, vice president at the I.I.I., says increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing, are responsible for the higher costs per claim.
Dog-related injuries also have an impact on the potential severity of losses. In addition to bites, dogs knock down children, cyclists, the elderly, all of which can result in fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries.
Another factor might be the surge in U.S. Post Office worker attacks, many of which take place at the customer’s door.
The study found the average cost per claim varies substantially across the country.
While Arizona had only the ninth largest number of claims at 393, it registered the highest average cost per claim of the 10 states with the most claims: a staggering $56,654.
State Farm notes that insurance is an important aspect to being a responsible dog owner and offers this important advice:
– Dog bites caused more than 33 percent of all homeowners insurance liability claims in 2014, costing in excess of $530 million
– The average cost per claim has increased more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014
– The number of dog-bite claims actually decreased by 4.7 percent but the average cost per claim increased 15 percent from $27,862 in 2013 to $32,072 in 2014
– California (1,867), Ohio (1,009) and New York (965) had the highest number of claims in 2014
– New York had the highest average cost per claim in the country: a whopping $56,628
Costs per claims have risen due to a variety of factors including increased medical costs and jury awards. In addition to dog bites, some claims are due to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, which can result in fractures and other injuries. All these factors impact the potential severity of losses.
Many dog owners do not consider the possibility that their friendly Fido could bite a friend, relative, or even a stranger. But dog bites do happen and irresponsible dog owners endanger others and their assets, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
For example, State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the U.S., paid out more than $109 million as a result of its nearly 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011.
The I.I.I. reports that dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2011, costing nearly $479 million.
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the average costÃ‚ paid out toÃ‚ dog bite claims was $29,396 in 2011, up 12.3 percent from $26,166 in 2010. In fact, from 2003 to 2011, the cost of the average dog bite claim increased by 53.4 percent.
These increases can be attributed to higher medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate of inflation in recent years, according to the I.I.I.
Most standard homeowners insurance policies provide policyholders with anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 in dog bite liability coverage. If the claim exceeds those limits, the dog owner is personally responsible for all damages above that amount, including legal expenses.
Most insurers will cover homeowners with dogs. However, once a dog has bitten someone, your insurance company may charge a higher premium or exclude the dog from coverage.
Of course, the best way to protect yourself is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place.
Check out this I.I.I. video for tips on preventing dog bites: