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Report shows dog-bite claims hit new high in 2013

Now that the spring is finally here, people across Illinois and throughout much of the nation are emerging from their homes, ready to enjoy the warmer weather conditions. However, it won't only be people coming outside in greater numbers, but their dogs who were also largely confined over the long winter.

Of course with this influx of dogs comes an increase in the risk of dog attacks. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that nearly 4.5 million people here in the U.S. are bitten by dogs every year with about 20 percent of these people requiring some type of medical treatment for their injuries.

As if these numbers weren't disturbing enough, consider a recently released report by the Insurance Information Institute outlining the number of dog-bite claims handled by the nation's insurance companies in 2013. 

According to the Institute's report, an unbelievable 17,359 dog-bite claims were filed with insurance companies in 2013. This constitutes a 5.5 percent increase from 2012 and a new all-time high, surpassing the record set in 2003.  

The Institute also determined that the average cost per dog-bite claims was $27,862, and that the total amount paid out was nearly $484 million in 2013.

On a state level, California had the highest number of dog-bite claims (1,919), while New York had the costliest dog-bite claims ($43,122 per claim).

What then is behind this spike in dog attacks?

"Dog attacks are directly attributable to the owners of the dog -- that's almost always true," said one attorney. "Most of the time when this happens, people are not leashing their dogs."

Fortunately, the Institute did provide some useful steps to help cut down on the risk of dog bites:

  • Dog owners should always keep dogs on a leash or within an enclosed area, and avoid teaching them aggressive games (fetch as opposed to tug of war).
  • Dog owners and/or parents alike should teach their children not to bother dogs while they are eating or sleeping.
  • Dog owners and/or parents alike should keep all infants away from dogs.

It's important to consider speaking with a legal professional with significant experience handling premises liability cases if you or a loved one have suffered painful, debilitating or emotionally scarring injuries in a dog attack

Source: Carrier Management, "Dogs biting U.S. insurers; Record claims in 2013," Craig Giammona, May 14, 2014

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