Dog Bite Lawsuits & Prevention
There are about 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year.
Many require medical treatment and some cause permanent injury. Children are common victims: 50% will have suffered a dog bite by their senior year of high school. Seventy-five percent of children who need plastic surgery as a result of a dog bite will need additional – and expensive – scar revision surgeries. In addition to bite injuries, broken bones, spinal damage, and head injuries have occurred when a person is either knocked down by or trips over a dog.
What Do These Statistics Mean?
They mean there is a very good chance that if you are a dog owner, you may have a claim against you for an injury caused by a dog you own or that is in your care. Many states hold dog owners to “strict liability” in regard to dog bites and other dog-related injuries. That means that even if you have taken reasonable steps to prevent the injury, you would still be held liable for the damages. Legal settlements or judgments against you for injury-related claims and lawsuits can be substantial – and more than you can pay without selling your assets.
Do two things:
- Learn how to prevent dog bites.
- Ensure you have adequate liability insurance protection.
Prevention is the Best Approach
National humane societies and your veterinarian are good sources of information regarding how you can be an owner of a “solid citizen” dog that is less apt to react with defensive, protective, or territorial aggression. Here are a few tips.
- Always supervise small children around dogs. Children do not recognize the signs of a fearful or aggressive dog and may unknowingly provoke a bite.
- Don’t approach a dog with puppies, or one that is eating, or chewing a toy.
- Do not approach a loose dog or one that is behind a fence or in a car.
- Don’t corner a dog or allow others to do so – a dog that feels trapped may feel it has to bite in self-defense.
- Don’t chain your dog outside or isolate it. A dog that feels defenseless or doesn’t know how to interact with humans is more apt to bite.
- Spay or neuter your dog – an altered dog is less likely to be aggressive.
- Train your dog and make sure it is well-exercised and socialized.
Make Sure You Have Adequate Coverage
- Medical care is expensive – and so are lawsuits for pain and suffering and/or permanent disfigurement.
- Your homeowners policy provides financial protection and that needed peace of mind in the unlikely event that someone is injured by your dog.
- Check the Declarations Page. Is your Coverage E (Personal Injury) amount high enough to cover you if your dog bites a person and causes a severe injury? Remember, a person who is seriously injured may be out of work for a long time and you may be required to pay toward that person’s lost wages as well as medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering.
- If your Coverage E amount is not adequate, please consider an Excess Liability (umbrella) policy. Excess liability policies are generally available in coverage increments of $1 million. The annual premium is relatively low, and it is likely to be considerably less expensive than meeting a settlement or judgment against you when your homeowners liability coverage is not adequate.
What to Do Now
Call us to work with an Electric Insurance Risk Coach to help ensure you have the coverage you need. Our Risk Coaches are licensed insurance professionals who are glad to help you navigate the often-perplexing world of insurance coverage. Call us at 800.227.2757, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET.