Dog Bites One Third of Homeowner’s Insurance Claims
While most of us buy homeowner's insurance to protect against storm damage and theft, injuries caused by dogs account for a third of all damage payouts.
While most of us buy homeowner’s insurance to protect against storm damage and theft, injuries caused by dogs account for a third of all damage payouts.*
TIME (“Dog Bites Insurance Companies: Man’s Best Friend Behind One-Third of All Homeowner Claims“):
Over the last decade, the number of insurance claims related to dog bites has basically remained flat. But the amount of money paid out in claims has soared, and last year dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all dollars paid out in homeowners insurance liability claims.
Data from the Insurance Information Institute (III) released in honor of something called National Dog Bite Prevention Week indicates that over the past decade, the number of dog bite claims has drifted from the low 14,000s to the high 16,000s. In 2012, the total stood at 16,459, down from the 2011 tally of 16,695, and also lower than the 2003-s total of 16,919. The low over the past decade occurred in 2005, when 14,295 dog bite claims were recorded.
While the number of dog bite claims has fluctuated a bit up and down, the value of claims has gone in one direction: upward. In the 2012, dog bite claims accounted for $489.7 million, which is more than one-third of all homeowners liability claims paid in the year, according to the III. Compare that to 2003, when there were a few hundred more dog bite claims, and yet the claim payouts totaled $324.2 million. From 2003 to 2012, the value of dog bite claims increased 51%, a rate that far outpaces inflation. The average dog bite claim payout rose from $19,162 in 2003 to $29,752 last year, an increase of 55%.
Insurers take notice of such data, and yes, owning a dog—especially one that has bitten someone—can affect your policy. In general, the fact that you have a dog doesn’t factor into what rate you pay for homeowner’s insurance. But as the New York Times noted, once a dog bite takes place at your home, the insurer could raise the premium or even exclude dog-related injuries from coverage.
It hardly seems unreasonable that having a dog with a history of biting people—and especially creating insurance claims for biting people—would lead to rates going up. After all, people who get speeding tickets, DUIs, or crash their cars expect to pay more, too.
*UPDATE: Commenter Gromitt Gunn correctly notes that liability claims are a small fraction of the payouts on homeowner’s insurance. The article remains interesting but my takeaway—that dog bites account for one third of all payouts, and thus account for more damage that natural disasters and crime—is wrong.