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Dog Bite Injury Cases Increased 18% in 2016: Report

A new report warns that cases involving dog bites and related injuries spiked in 2016, accounting for a third of all home-owner liability claims last year. 

The report was released by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm Insurance on April 6, indicating that there were 18% more dog bite injury cases in 2016, compared to 2015.

There were 18,123 dog-related injuries in 2016, compared to 15,352 in 2015, according to the findings. Those incidents cost home owners and insurance companies $602 million in claims, an overall increase of 5.4%. However, the report also found that the average cost per claim decreased more than 10%, with an average dog bite claim resulting in payments of $33,230 in 2016, compared to $37,214 in 2015.

Even with the decrease in average costs last year, the average recovery in a dog-bite case has increased 73.4% since 2003.

“The decrease in the 2016 average cost per claim could be attributed to a decrease in severity of injuries,” I.I.I. Vice President Loretta Worters said in the press release. “But the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 70 percent from 2003 to 2016, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs.”

The largest number of dog bite cases occurred in California, with 1,934 reported. The state with the highest payout per claim was New York, with $55,671 per claim.

The report was released as part of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs from April 9-15, and is designed to raise awareness and provide consumers with information about being responsible dog owners.

The I.I.I. recommended that the best way to avoid claims was to take steps to prevent your dog from biting someone. A number of preventative steps have been outlined for dog owners by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Dog owners should consult with a professional, such as a veterinarian or animal behaviorist, on suitable breeds of dog for your home and neighborhood.
  • Prospective owners should spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it and should avoid bringing aggressive dogs into homes with infants or toddlers.
  • Have your dog spayed or neutered.
  • Prevent children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping, and never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
  • Socialize your dog so that it knows how to behave around other people and animals, and avoid exposing your dog to new situations where you are unsure of its response.
  • Play non-aggressive games with your dog, like fetching a ball, as opposed to games that raise its aggressive behavior, like “tug-of-war.”

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