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A third of homeowner liability claims due to dog bites

6/7/2013

Massachusetts dog owners may be interested in the following information about dog bite liability. According to the latest data compiled by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm Insurance, dog bites continue to make up one-third of insurance payouts for homeowner liability claims. Insurance companies payed out nearly $500 million for dog bite claims in 2012. Dog bite claims are paid under a homeowner’s liability insurance. The insurance covers dog bites that occur in the home or when the dog is out with a homeowner on a walk.

A spokesperson for the institute stated that some companies include all dog-related injuries, not just dog bites. For example, if a dog startles or jumps up on a person and they fall and are injured. Last year, the number of dog-bite claims fell slightly, 1.4 percent to just under 16,500. At the same time, the cost of settling claims rose 1.2 percent. The actual cost changed very little between 2011 and 2012.

Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover dog liability automatically. The limits are generally up to $100,000 or $300,000. The average cost per claim in 2012 was $29,752. In 2011, it was $29,396.

Most insurers do not ask about dogs when they write up a homeowner’s policy. Once a dog bite occurs, insurers are likely to increase a homeowner’s policy and, in some cases, exclude the dog from coverage. The change in coverage usually depends on the severity of the injury. In addition, some insurers choose to exclude particular dog breeds from coverage.

Anyone who has been bitten or injured by a dog may be entitled to compensation. A personal injury lawyer may be able to answer questions about compensation for a dog bite injury. A lawyer might review the circumstances to determine whether there is a valid case. In addition, a lawyer may help prepare a lawsuit and provide representation in court.

Source: The New York Times, “Dog Bites Can Raise Your Insurance Premiums“, Ann Carrns, May 27, 2013

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