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.

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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.

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. wr says:

    Wouldn’t “One Third of Homeowners Insurance Claims Bites Dog” be a better headline?

  2. The average dog bite claim payout rose from $19,162 in 2003 to $29,752 last year, an increase of 55%.

    Wow. These must be pretty substantial injuries and no just a little nip on the hand.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Boy, did I miss the boat. I have been bitten at least 6 times. Never sued any body. Of course, twice it was my fault, and once it was my sisters dog. Still, I had at least 3 shots at the golden egg….

    I don’t have to worry about my 95 lb. lab biting anyone, but I wonder what the damages would be for a good licking?

  4. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And one must never consider any change in breed mix over that time.

  5. Ernieyeball says:

    Then there is this:

    Of the 31 fatal dog attacks reported in the United States in 2012, most by a family pet, 15 victims were children 6 years old or younger. The youngest child was 2 days old.

    Source WikiP

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @

    a third of all damage payouts.

    Actually it is 1/3 of homeowner liabiity claims, not damage claims, which amount to far more than $1.5 bn per year in the US.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: No, it’s a third of the dollar payout:

    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.

  8. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @James Joyner: Perhaps my point was lost – the category being described by the article is liability claims, not damage claims, as you had asserted. Damage claims are a much larger category than liability.

    if you extrapolate from the data, dog bite homeowner liability claims were roughly $500 million in 2012. At 1/3 of total liability claims, that is roughly $1.5 billion in liability claims.

    Sandy alone accounted for approximately $50 to $60 billion in property damage claims (both commercial and homeowner).

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Ah, that makes more sense.

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    For comparison, the property damage to Moore, Oklahoma is being estimated at $2.0 billion at this juncture.

  11. Tyrell says:

    Insurance companies hate dogs and swimming pools. That comes from my agent.
    “Insurance companies have enough money to buy this country ” That quote was from the CEO of one of the largest insurance companies – I think it was the Hartford. Quote was long ago.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: I’d give you a hard time about that “never mind” moment if I hadn’t read it the same way myself.

  13. Rob in CT says:

    @Tyrell:

    Don’t forget trampolines! We hates them, we hates them…

  14. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: Ha. The headline and tone of the news report make that the logical takeaway. My guess is that the reporter didn’t understand the report and the editor didn’t cross-check.