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Dog Bite Claims on the Rise; Insurers Pinched

Insurers Concerned over Increase in Dog Bite Claims

Insurance companies are beginning to feel the bite as a nationwide increase in dog bite claims chews away at bottom lines.

In 2009, there was an increase of 6.4% in the amount that insurers had to pay out to settle dog bite claims.Companies paid out $412 million to cover dog bite claims in 2009, compared to the previous year, when the payout was $387.2 million.The average dog bite claim in 2009 exceeded $24,000 for the third year in a row.The number of claims increased to 16,586 – an increase of 4.8%.

The situation is so bad many insurance companies are now declining to provide dog bite insurance coverage, as part of their homeowner’s liability insurance coverage.Other companies agree to provide coverage if the owner agrees to send the dog to a behavior training school.Obviously, these increased payouts are hitting insurers where it hurts, and they are, in turn, increasing pressure on dog owners.

Insurers point to the fact that more and more states are enacting strict liability statutes for dog bites.While Georgia has a “one bite free “policy that allows dog owners to avoid liability for a first time bite by the dog, this is frequently overridden by local ordinances governing leash laws.For example, if Buster busts through the home fence or if the owner just lets him wander the neighborhood until dinnertime, then the owner is liable as a matter of law if Buster bites someone while off leash.Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have strict liability statutes, under which a dog owner can be held liable if his animal attacks, regardless of whether he had knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies or not.These are the kind of laws that Atlanta dog bite lawyers have strongly supported.