Canadian Underwriter

Liability claims costs for dog bites on the rise

May 16, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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Claims costs related to dog bites are on the rise, accounting for a third of homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, costing more than $489 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute in the United States.

Dog bites

The institute’s analysis of homeowners insurance data in the U.S. found that the number of dog bite claims fell by 1.4% between 2011 and 2012 (the first decline since 2010), but that the average cost paid out for those claims increased by 1.2%.

The average cost paid out last year was 29,752, up from 29,396 in 2011. In 2003, the average cost paid out was $19,162, according to the institute’s figures.

“While a decrease in dog bite claims is good news, the rise in claims costs by even a small amount suggests that medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs are still on the upswing,” the institute noted.

Last year, State Farm paid out $108 million for 3,670 claims related to dog bites in Canada.

Ontario topped the number of dog bite claims, with 33 claims totalling $2,421,814, State Farm said. The previous high was in 2007, when the insurer paid out $1,178,000. In 2011, the province had 25 claims reported and the insurer paid out $917,670.

Last year, there was one such claim in Alberta, paying out $16,250, and no claims in New Brunswick, the other provinces where State Farm does business.

South of the border, the top five states in terms of dog bite claims were: California (451 claims, $17.1 million); Illinois (337 claims, $9.0 million); Texas (236 claims, $4.3 million); Ohio (235, $5.0 million); Pennsylvania (165 claims, $4.5 million).

Most dog bite victims are children, the insurer noted. The Canadian Safety Council estimates there are 460,000 dog bite incidents each year with children under 10, State Farm also said.

The Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine has reported that dog bites account for more injury-related emergency department visits than injuries associated with playgrounds, all-terrain vehicles, rollerblading or skateboards.

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