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According to the latest dog bites figures from the Insurance Information Institute, 2013 set a record for the number of dog bite claims. Last year, the number of dog bite injury claims rose by nearly 6 percent to 17,359.

At an average cost of $27,862 per claim, dog bite claims account for over one third of all homeowners insurance liability claims .

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.  Children between the ages of 5 and 9 and men are the most frequent victims of dog bites. 

Because of the number of dog bite claims, many homeowners insurance policies are changing.  While many insurance companies will provide coverage for property damage adn medical bills up to $100,000 to $300,000, an increasing number of companies are raising premiums for certain breeds of dogs, or will only insure the homeowner if they have taken their dog to obedience or behavior classes.  At least one company, Farmers Insurance, required California homeowners to execute a waiver of liability for dog bites if the dog they owned was a Rottweiler, wolf hybrid or pit bull terrier.

The high cost of dog bite claims has also given rise to specialized companies such as the Federation of Insured Dog Owners (“FIDO”).  These companies fill the void in standard homeowners liability policies.  FIDO charges annual premiums starting at $75 for policy limits from $50,000 to $100,000.  FIDO insures any breed, but is only available in nine states, including three of the top ten states for dog bite claims – California, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  FIDO premiums vary depending on a number of factors including where the dog sleeps, who is around the dog and whether the dog has had obedience training.

The liability of a dog owner for a dog varies considerably from state to state.  In some cases, the dog owner is liable for any unprovoked attack, regardless of any other circumstance.  Some states impose liability on the dog owner only if the bite victim can establish that the dog owner had knowledge that the dog was dangerous orthat the owner was careless in controlling the dog.

If you or a loved one have suffered injury as a result of a dog bite, contact the experienced dog bite attorneys at Clark, Perdue & List.