When The Dog Bites...

Dogs are often referred to as “Man’s Best Friend,” and most of the time, that statement rings true.  It is important to remember, however, that dogs are indeed animals, and without the proper training, can exhibit wild, aggressive behavior.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC,) there are approximately 5 million dog bites each year in the United States.  This statistic includes bites ranging from severe bites that require immediate medical attention to minor bites that are almost immediately forgotten.  The number of bites that require immediate medical attention hover around 800,000 bites per year which means that 1/5 of all dog bites results in the need for medical attention, and there are over 1,000 emergency room visits per day related to dog bite injuries.

From an insurance standpoint, dog bite cases are on the rise. According to Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Insurance Companies paid out $412 million for dog bite claims in 2009, a nine percent increase from 2008.  Each claim averaged out at about $25,000.  This essentially means that dogs can inflict quite serious injuries upon their victims, resulting in extensive medical treatment and significant medical bills.  In fact, dog bites were responsible for over 31,000 expensive reconstructive surgeries in 2006.  Unfortunately, many times dogs bite your children and the bites are often on the fact causing permanent scarring.  In our opinion, insurance companies often under-value scarring cases, requiring suit to be filed to get fair compensation.

Dog bites are typically covered by the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy.  Unfortunately, much like automobile insurance coverage, many dog owners do not review their policy regarding coverage of dog bites, and find themselves with inadequate coverage when a bite occurs.  It can be a good idea to purchase additional umbrella coverage to protect your assets if your dog happens to cause serious injury to another individual.  Additionally, it is important to check your policy to see if there are any specific breeds that will not be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy.

With reference to different breeds of dogs and their likelihood of being aggressive, the media often portrays specific breeds as being far more likely to bite than others.  The breeds most frequently mentioned include: Pit Bulls, Boxers, and Rottweilers.  While these breeds are often used as guard dogs for the protection that their sheer size offers, it is important to note that with the proper training, these specific breeds are, for the most part, no more likely to bite and indeed have a higher temperament rating than the common family chosen Labrador and Golden Retriever.

It is important to note that children, adult males and people with dogs in their home are the most likely victims of a dog bite. 

Here are some tips to help prevent a dog bite:
 
•   Do not approach an unfamiliar dog
•   Do not run from a dog or scream
•   Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog
•   Avoid direct eye contact with a dog
•   Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies
•   Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first
•   If knocked over by a dog, roll over and lie still (like a log)

 


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