For many pet owners, a beloved dog is a member of the family. But a vicious dog that bites, attacks or menaces visitors is a serious liability.
Georgia has strict dog bite laws, and according to the Insurance Information Institute, Georgia ranks in the top 10 in the country for the number and cost of claims for dog bite injuries. In 2014, insurers paid $12.2 million to settle 338 dog bite claims in Georgia, with an average payout of $31,497 a piece.
Across the nation, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than $530 million in homeowners’ insurance liability claims nationwide in 2014, accounting for more than one-third of all claims. The value of the average claim payment jumped by 15 percent from $27,862 in 2013 to $32,072 last year.
Loretta Worters, vice president with the institute, said that the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs. Those costs are still on the upswing, Worters said.
You don’t want your dog to bite anyone. Nor do you want your dog to chase after anyone who might fall down or crash their bicycle and be injured. Dogs knocking down children, cyclists, and the elderly can cause fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries that affect the potential severity of the losses compensated through insurance claims, the I.I.I. says.
The Institute says California tops its list with 1,867 dog bite claims in 2014 resulting in $62.8 million in payments, at an average of $33,649 each. The rest of the top 10 were Ohio, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Wisconsin.
On a positive note, about the same time the report came out, the U.S. Postal Service released a report of its “top 30 dog attack city rankings,” for 2014, and no Georgia city appears on the list. In its report about dog attacks in 2013, Atlanta tied for 29th, with 12 reported attacks.
Nationwide, 5,767 postal employees were attacked in 2014, the release says. Los Angeles, with 74 dog attacks, tops that list.
The I.I.I. and the Postal Service also offer tips to help homeowners make sure their dogs don’t attack anyone, as do we.
Responsible dog ownership comes down to choosing a breed suitable for you and your family, training your pet and, because any dog can and will bite, making sure your dog is penned or otherwise restrained when appropriate.
The Millar Law Firm takes an interest in responsible pet ownership and training dog bites because we represent victims of dog attacks as they seek insurance payments for their injuries. We’ve seen the horrible injuries that innocent children, senior citizens and others have suffered from dog attacks.
If you or a loved one of yours has been badly hurt by someone else’s dog in Georgia, contact us about the legal options available to you. We understand what you’re going through, and we want to help.