The Insurance Business Magazine recently published an article concerning the rising cost of dog bites in liability cases. Are dogs becoming more vigilant in their protection of American homes? Is there something in the airwaves or the water that is causing them to become more aggressive?
Each year, there are a reported 4.7 million dog bites. At least 800,000 of these result in the need for medical treatment. In insurance terms, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims. In 2017, this totaled $700 million dollars in claims with an average settlement of nearly $38,000.
For this reason, certain policies will exclude specific breeds including, among others, pit bulls. Is this fair? Probably not, but if a pit bull does bite your irritating neighbor, chances are it is going to do more damage than a wiener dog.
When a dog nips your ankle, it may not be a big deal, but dogs have very powerful jaws. An agitated animal that clamps down an unsuspecting passerby can rupture their Achilles tendon. When dogs go after arms, they can do nerve and muscle damage. Even when there is not extensive damage, the bitten individual will require a battery of tests, antibiotics, and likely stitches. Dog bites can also be emotionally traumatic experiences. Those bitten can face serious discomfort for an extended period of time. In cases in which there is nerve damage, that nerve damage can be permanent.
There are only two ways to defend against an allegation that a dog bit a plaintiff. The first is to simply argue that it never happened or the plaintiff is lying or confused. The second is to assert an affirmative defense. This means admitting that the dog did indeed bite the plaintiff, but the plaintiff induced the dog to attack by harassment or by other means.
In most cases, dog bite lawsuits are settled against a homeowner’s insurance policy. If the homeowner’s dog is covered by the policy, then you or your attorney would file a claim against the homeowner’s insurance. The insurance company will likely not put up a defense to the facts of the case but may claim that your injuries are not as extensive as you claim or make you a low offer to see how committed you are to the process of litigation. In these cases, it helps to have a lawyer litigate your claim.
The attorneys at Brassfield & Krueger have experience litigating dog bite claims against negligent owners and their insurance companies. If you have been injured, give us a call or talk to us online for a free case evaluation.
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