Report: Size of insurance claims for dog bites soar

The good news for Albuquerque dog owners is that New Mexico is not on the Top Ten list of states with the most reported dog bites recently issued in a report by the Insurance Information Institute (III). The bad news is that the organization says the cost per dog-bite claim has risen more than 160 percent since 2003 – and that it rose more than 12 percent last year alone.

The III says that nearly half of the nation’s 128 million households have dogs as pets and that there are about 77 million dogs living in those homes.

Unfortunately, millions of people are bitten each year by dogs – and most dog-bite victims are children.

The III reports that of the approximately 350,000 people treated for non-fatal dog-bite injuries in 2017, nearly 10,600 were toddlers (two years old or younger).

Policies, costs and breeds

The III – which has more than 60 insurance company members – notes that most homeowner and renter insurance policies include “dog bite liability legal expenses up to liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000).” Judging by the soaring costs of claims reported by the III, those coverage limits are needed or even exceeded in some of the very worst incidents, which often result in a personal injury lawsuit.

Of course, some insurers will simply not insure homeowners or renters who own certain breeds that are categorized as dangerous – often pit bulls. Other insurers don’t require homeowners to divulge the breed of dog when they’re writing or renewing a homeowners policy.

Still other insurers raise their rates for households that own certain breeds (often pit bulls and Rottweilers).

Diving into the data

The number of dog-bite claims in the U.S. fell by 4.6 percent last year, though the average cost per claim rose 12.3 percent in 2020. The III points out that some of the rising costs are due to injuries sustained when dogs knock down the elderly, children, bicyclists, etc.

Here’s a sample of the sharp rise in insurance claim costs in recent years:

  • 2003: there were 16,919 dog-bite claims that cost an average of $19,162 each. The total value of the claims that year was $324.2 million.
  • 2012: a decade later, the number of dog bite claims was slightly lower (16,459), though the average cost per claim had risen more than 50 percent to $29,752. The total paid out in dog-bite claims was up to $498.7 million.
  • 2020: the number of claims last year (16,991) was barely higher than the number of dog-bite claims in 2003, though the average cost per claim soared 162.2 percent to an average of $50,245 per claim.

In many Albuquerque dog-bite cases, owners are held liable for unprovoked attacks that result in cuts, punctures or tears that damage muscles, nerves, blood vessels, bones and more. A skilled legal professional can assess your case and legal options.