Do Your Claims Bite?

Author: D16 March 13, 2014

There’s an old saying that “dog bites man” isn’t news, but “man bites dog is.” That’s true, but how about when dog bites man to the tune of $90 million?

That’s what State Farm Insurance paid out last year alone for 3,500 dog bite claims. California, leading the way in claims, had 369 claims totaling over $11 million. Ohio, had the third highest number, with 215 claims totaling almost $6 million!

Every year in the US, around five million people get bitten by a dog. For different reasons, relatively few claims are filed with the insurance companies. If all of them did, we may see fewer dogs running around!

Dog bites can be a serious concern to neighborhoods, parks, and communities. Children account for 60% of dog bite victims. The elderly, mail carriers, and meter readers are others who have a higher risk of being bitten.

Why a dog bites a person depends on different factors like heredity, obedience training, socialization, health, and the victim’s behavior. There are good dogs in every breed, and there are bad dogs in every breed. Generally, insurance companies do not refuse insurance based on the kind of dog, but often do require questions to be answered about the history of their dog on their homeowner’s insurance application.

There are exceptions, though, and Ohio is one of them. The State of Ohio has determined that the pit bull meets the requirements of the definition of a “vicious dog.” As a result, owners of pit bulls or of any American Staffordshire Terrier mix must follow specific requirements in order to protect the public from injury by these animals. In addition, insurance companies generally exclude these breeds from coverage under homeowner’s policies in the state.

The prevention of a dog bite starts with the owner, and you can help your dog-owning policyholders understand how to reduce the risk by passing along these and other tips found at the Web site of the Humane Society of the United States:

  • Spay or neuter the dog. Spayed or neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.
  • Socialize the dog by introducing the  dog to many different types of people and situations to reduce nervousness and fear in  normal social circumstances.
  • Err on the safe site. If you don’t know how the dog will react in a new situation, be extra cautious. If you now the dog will overreact in certain situations, like when a delivery person knocks on the door,put the dog in a different room before answering the door.

The Humane Society has more tips here. Share them with your policyholders and help keep their pet a member of the family, and not a claims statistic.

Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith and freedigitalphotos.net.