Homeowner Liability for Dog Bite Claims Dramatically Increased, Study Finds

National Dog Bite Prevention Week runs from April 9 to 15 this year. The focus of the awareness program is to educate dog owners and the public about dog bite prevention.

To draw attention to the week, the Insurance Information Institute, in collaboration with State Farm, released a shocking report detailing the increase in dog bite claims over the past decade. Last year alone, there were over 18,000 claims filed against homeowners due to dog bites, which is nearly 3,500 more claims than in 2006.

Increased Claims and Payouts

The report shows that since 2006, the number of dog bite claims against homeowners has gone up by nearly 20%. Additionally, the average payout on a claim has increased by over $11K during that same time period. The gross amount of all payouts increased by nearly $280 million, totaling over $600 million for 2016.

However, analysts explained that the increase in the value of the claims is not due to anything policy related, but rather is due to an increase in severe dog bites and attacks, particularly when children are injured.

Dog Bite Liability

Generally, a dog’s owner will be liable for an injury caused by their dog’s bite. Some states impose “strict liability” on animal owners, meaning that regardless of the circumstances, if a person’s animal attacks another, the animal’s owner will be liable. However, some states require that an animal have a reputation, or propensity for violence, meaning that a prior attack may be required to prove liability. In some states, certain breeds, like pit bulls, will be considered inherently to have a propensity for violence because of a breed’s storied history of being bred to be a fighting dog.

Sometimes though, a victim may be rightly to blame for an animal attack. When an individual provokes an animal to attack, the owner may not be liable. Additionally, if a trespasser sees but ignores a “Beware of Dog” sign, that could also complicate liability for an injury victim.

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