Georgia Among States with Sizable Number of Dog Bite Claims

Georgia ranks among the states with the highest number of dog bite claims, according to a recent analysis of homeowners’ policy claims by the Insurance Information Institute in conjunction with State Farm. The report underscores the importance of protecting people from dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog owners.

In 2013, dog bite injuries accounted for more than one-third of all monies paid out on homeowners’ insurance claims. This number has risen in recent years because of increased medical costs as well as increased settlements and judgments awarded to dog bite victims by judges and juries.

State Farm is the largest writer of homeowners insurance policies, and last year, State Farm paid $2.1 million to settle 106 dog bite claims in Georgia. These are claims that cover dog bites, scratches, knockdowns and violent attacks.

How expensive are dog bites?

A single claim for a dog attack can not only cover the medical bills related to the bite itself including reconstructive surgery, but the lasting effects of such a traumatic event.

In children especially, a dog attack can result in post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition characterized by fear and emotional damage tied to a single traumatic event, according to an article in the medical journal Contemporary Pediatrics. Signs of PTSD in children include excessive anxiety, decreased school performance, withdrawal, and behavioral problems. But in victims of all ages, such an attack can have a lasting effect. Putting a valuation on this type of damage is difficult.

In the last decade, the cost per dog bite claim has risen 45 percent, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Ideally, no family would have to deal with a dog bite. No one would be forced to suffer the traumatic experience of being attacked by a stranger’s pet or even their own. Taking precautions to ensure these attacks happen as rarely as possible is a responsibility that rests on everyone’s shoulders.

Preventing dog bites

Many people know how to prevent being attacked by a dog. They teach their children to never pet a strange dog or taunt an animal on the other side of the fence. But what can pet owners do to ensure their animal won’t attack? Though many are confident their pet is friendly and would never turn on a human, some family pets are blamed in dog bite attacks.

Preventing such an accident begins when you choose a pet for your home. Talk to a veterinarian about the most suitable breeds for your family and neighborhood. If adopting, spend time with the animal before making the final decision. Talk with shelter employees about the dog’s past and his temperament while at the kennel. A dog that has shown aggressive behavior is not suitable for households with small children.

Introduce the new pet to family members and existing pets in a neutral territory before finalizing the decision to adopt. If the shelter isn’t open to this introduction, consider going elsewhere.

Additional safety tips for dog owners include:

  • Don’t teach your dog aggressive games like tug-of-war and don’t accept a dog’s rough-housing as “just play”.
  • Socialize your animal with other pets and people at a local dog park.
  • Consult with a veterinarian or dog behavior expert early when you notice any behaviors that concern you.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to new and stressful situations without knowing how he/she will respond.
  • Never leave small children alone with your pet.

Under Georgia law, dog owners can be held responsible for a dog attack if they knew or should have known the dog was vicious and handled him irresponsibly or  disregarded leash laws and allowed the dog to roam freely. Preventing dog bite injuries is important for everyone, whether you or not you are a dog owner. When an attack happens, the stakes are high and the consequences can be deadly.