Dog Bites Proving Costly for Insurance Companies

Insurance companies costs associated with dog bites has hit a record high.  Payouts on claims for dog bite injuries jumped 12% over last year.  In 2011, dog bite injuries cost the insurance companies $478.9 million.  In 2010, the cost was $412.6 million.  State Farm Insurance Companies alone paid out $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide last year.  California had the most claims of any state.  Illinois had the second most amount of claims and claims paid out.  Children ages 5 to 9 and senior citizens pose the highest risk groups. An analysis of homeowners' insurance data showed that the average payout of a claim either by way of settlement or trial resulted in a payout of $29,396 in 2011, compared to $26,166 for the prior year.  Dog bite attacks account for one third of all liability payouts under homeowners' policies.  Under Illinois law, homeowners can be held strictly liable if their dog bites someone, as long as the victim did not provoke the animal.  This is a much stronger legal theory for plaintiffs compared to ordinary negligence claims.  Anecdotally, our experience has been that pit bulls are the one breed more than others that inflict this kind of damage.