“Dog Bites Man” is not a headline news story anyone would expect to see, but dog bite claims are reaching levels that could certainly attract people’s attention. What’s more, the number of claims and the amounts being paid out are increasing at quite dramatic rates.
While Oregon dog bite claims don’t go anywhere near the levels of the state that leads the way, California, personal injury attorneys are still being contacted by ever-growing numbers of people who have been attacked and injured both physically and emotionally, by someone else’s dog. More and more, those attacks are leading to some shocking payouts.
State Farm Insurance feeling the economic “bite”
Across the United States, an insurance industry watchdog estimates $479 million was paid out in dog bite claims in 2011 alone. One of the country’s leading providers of home owners insurance, State Farm, was hit especially hard. They paid out more than $109 million to settle approximately 3,800 dog bite claims in that single year.
It’s the steady increase in both claims and payouts that is concerning the insurance companies. They point to a statistical trend that shows no signs of easing up.
- The $109 million in payments to settle 3,800 claims in 2011 followed an already difficult year where State Farm paid out $90 million to settle 3,500 claims in 2010. That represents a 10 percent increase in the number of claims, but slightly more than a 20 percent increase in the amount it cost to settle each claim.
- Nationally, the increase in payouts rose from $413 million in 2010 to $479 million in 2011, representing a rise of almost 16 percent in a single year.
- In California alone, 527 claims were filed, and it cost $20.3 million to settle; a staggering increase of 31 percent in a single year.
A problem reaching epidemic proportions
It is now estimated that an American is bitten by a dog every 75 seconds or so, and more and more victims are holding the owner of the dog that bites them liable for the damages caused. State Farm spokesman Eddie Martinez says his company is working hard to find the reason for the spike in claims, but Portland personal injury attorneys filing Oregon dog bite claims simply point to the huge number of people being bitten and the increased awareness of victims regarding their rights to sue for damages.
Children are especially vulnerable to dog attacks for a number of reasons, including their size and their innocent nature which means they seldom expect a dog would ever attack them. The fact is, dog bites are the second leading reason why children end up in hospital emergency rooms. Other worrying statistics indicate the problem of dog bites is reaching epidemic proportions. Consider these facts:
- More than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and more than half of those are children under the age of 18.
- When a dog bites, it can do enough damage to send people to the hospital. Of the 4.5 million bitten, about 350,000 (or about one in every 12) will require treatment for their wounds.
- More than half of dog bites treated in hospital emergency rooms are labeled by attending medical providers as “urgent-emergent.”
- An average of 16 people are killed by dogs every year.
- Children aged 5 to 9 are the most at risk. Senior citizens are the next most likely to be injured by a dog bite. In general, a child is 900 times more likely to be attacked and bitten by a dog than a letter carrier.
- Nevertheless, every dog’s favorite, the letter carrier, comes third on the list of those most likely to be attacked. In each of the last two years, about 5,600 of these workers were bitten by dogs, and this cost the Postal Service over $1 million in the last year alone.
The cost per claim is skyrocketing
The number of Oregon dog bite claims is increasing in line with other states, but it’s the cost of settling those claims that is causing insurance company officials a lot of sleepless nights. People who have been bitten by someone else’s dog are no longer happy to just have their bandages and a bottle of antiseptic provided.
Since most dog bite claims originate there, it’s natural to take California as a prime example. In 2010, the cost of settling a dog bite claim averaged almost exactly $30,000. Just a year later, in 2011, that figure had soared to an average settlement cost of $38,500, and even at that, the Golden State didn’t have the highest national average. That honor went to New York, whose claimants received a breathtaking average of $45,900 per claim.
Do you think the New York and California claim amounts are so high because of the high costs of living, including medical costs, in those major metropolitan-rich states? If so, then ask yourself why Michigan came second—ahead of California—in the dog bite payout stakes, with an average 2011 settlement of $38,700 per claim.
Other states which feature prominently on this list include:
- Illinois, with 309 claims and $10 million paid in settlements
- Texas – 219 claims and $5.1 million in settlements
- Ohio – 215 claims and $5.4 million in settlements
States with the lowest number of claims and the lowest payouts included Maine, New Mexico, Montana, Hawaii and South Dakota. Nationally, the average payout for 2011 was $28,799 for every dog bite claim.
Help stop the injuries – not the claims
Portland personal injury attorneys who file Oregon dog bite claims say that people, and particularly parents, can and should do a lot more to prevent the horrific injuries that can occur when a dog decides to attack. The third full week in May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and companies and organizations including State Farm Insurance, the U.S. Postal Service and the American Veterinary Medical Association are advising every one of the steps to take to reduce the number of dog bites and the subsequent claims. These steps include:
- Teach a child to never stare into a dog’s eyes. This can provoke a sudden and fierce attack from a dog that seemed total calm a few moments earlier.
- Never tease any dog.
- Don’t approach a dog that is chained or touch a strange dog that is off their leash.
- Never run away from or scream if approached by a strange or loose dog. If you’re afraid, just stand very still and be as quiet as possible.
- Never let a child play with a dog while it is eating or touch a dog while it is asleep.
- Always ask a dog’s owner for permission before attempting to pet the dog. Even then, it’s a good idea to let the dog sniff your closed hand before stroking it.
According to the ASPCA, half of all children in America will be bitten by a dog before the age of 12. While most of these bites will be from the family dog, a large number of children are bitten by the dog of a neighbor or friend; cases like these have led to a number of Oregon dog bite claims.
What people need to remember is that there are more than 78 million dogs across America, and each and every one of them could turn dangerous if put into the wrong situation. Very few dogs are born “bad,” but if they are not properly looked after, or if they are taught to be aggressive or have been mistreated, any dog could suddenly lash out, with devastating consequences for innocent victims.
If you or a member of your family, and particularly a child, have been attacked and injured by someone else’s dog, it’s important to immediately get the medical help you need. Then contact an experienced team of qualified Portland dog bite injury attorneys. They will explain your rights and entitlements and help you get the compensation you deserve, and which you will need to help you get started down the road to recovery.