Animal liability takes a bite out of the insurance industry

Animal liabilityAlmost one thousand Americans are treated in emergency rooms every day as a result of dog bites. Estimates show that in 2009 insurance companies paid out a total of 412 million dollars in claims for dog bites. In a survey recently conducted by State Farm, they reveal the states with the highest amount of claims for dog bites.

Topping the list was California. According to the State Farm survey, California rated the highest in dog bite claims filed. Last year, California had 369 claims filed on insurance because of dog bites. The total payout on those claims came to more than 11 million dollars.

In a nine year span (2001-2009), dog bites was the ninth leading cause of unintentional injury to kid’s age five to nine years old.  A government study of emergency room visits and hospital stays between 1993 and 2008 shows an 86 percent increase in hospital stays related to dog bite injuries.

The average cost of a hospital stay for a dog bite was 50 percent higher than the cost of the average injury that required hospitalization. Additionally, almost 58 percent of hospitalizations for dog bites involved some form of surgical procedure.

Other states that ranked high for dog bites included Illinois, with 317 insurance claims; Ohio had 215 claims; Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania ranked in the top ten also. Florida was the seventh highest state for dog bites, but rated number one in the highest cost per claim compared to the other states.

Minnesota, New York and Indiana also rated in the top ten highest states for dog bites claimed. State Farm paid out 90 million dollars last year for 3,500 dog bite claims across the United States. Some insurers have exclusions in their homeowner’s policies, not covering dogs considered “vicious”; some exclude dogs altogether.

State Farm does not exclude pit bulls (as many have) in their homeowner policies, but do require the owner to fill out paper work about the dog, including a history of behavior. Ohio is the only state that determined pit bulls a vicious dog; excluding them from coverage on homeowner policies.

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