Dog Bites a Leading Cause of Homeowner Insurance Claims

91815.jpgThe ASPCA reports that approximately 37-47 percent of all American households have a dog and that between 70 and 80 million dogs are owned across the country. Dogs have been an integral part of human society for thousands of years and their popularity is only increasing, both in the nation and in the Phoenix area, so these numbers by the ASPCA will likely increase in coming years. Dogs provide companionship, entertainment, and security for many of the homes in the Valley of the Sun but they also pose a significant threat if they attack an adult or child.

When it comes to adopting or purchasing a dog, few potential owners consider the effect that the ownership may place on the safety of their friends and family who will visit them. Yet safety should be considered because on average, approximately 1,000 people seek emergency medical treatment every day due to injuries sustained by a dog bite or attack.

Victims who are hurt by the actions of a dog may be entitled to seek financial relief against the owner or caregiver of that dog, and a typical incident may be covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy. With so many dog bites taking place in America, it may not be surprising that approximately one out of every three claims made against homeowner’s insurance policies are related to the conduct of a pet dog.

Not all dogs and not all dog breeds are at equal risk for attacking adults and children, though, and it is important to consider this before acquiring a dog. For example, between 2005 and 2014, two dog breeds combined to be responsible for 74 percent of all the deaths in the country related to dog attacks: pit bulls and rottweilers, according to dogsbite.org. During that same time period, pit bulls were responsible for the deaths of 203 people which averaged out to approximately one death every 18 days, a shockingly high toll with many of those victims being innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, in 2013, 38 percent of all dog bite fatality victims were not living with the dog at the time of the attack – they were merely visiting the owner of the dog or staying in the home temporarily.

It is also important to know that even those who are not intentionally around dogs can still be injured or even killed by them when a dog is allowed to roam away from its home and out of its owner’s control. In 2014, 40 percent of all fatal dog attacks occurred off the premises where the dog’s owner lived. This includes cases where a dog on a walk attacks, where a dog runs free around a neighborhood and enters another’s property, and even where a dog leaves its own yard specifically to attack passersby.

If you own a dog or if you are thinking about adding a dog to your family, make sure you take appropriate steps to ensure your safety and the safety of others who will be around the dog. First, get a full and complete history of the dog if it is an adult. If a dog was involved in a violent incident previously or if that dog was used in an aggressive manner, like in dog fighting, be wary about selecting that dog as your own. Also consider the breed of dog prior to your selection and make sure that you are comfortable with the breed’s disposition. More than 700 cities in the United States have enacted breed-restrictive requirements which ban some of the more aggressive types of dogs, often including pit bulls, so educate yourself on any local ordinances that may apply to your pet ownership.

Once you obtain the dog, make sure you train the dog in a safe and effective manner. If you are not experienced in training a dog, consider taking your dog to a facility, expert, or other trainer who can assist you and who can help you utilize positive reinforcement to condition your dog’s behavior. Finally, never allow your dog unlimited freedom and supervise interactions between your dog and any visitors to your home. You never know how your dog will react upon being introduced to a new human so do not take your dog’s behavior for granted.

Under the laws of Arizona, dog owners are held liable for the conduct of their pets and this means that they will be responsible for any and all damages that result from an attack. Acting as a responsible dog owner can limit the potential for any threatening interactions and can limit your chances of being liable for financial harm.

No one should have to suffer because of the conduct of another’s dog. If you were harmed in a dog attack incident, speaking with a personal injury attorney may help you realize whether you are entitled to seek compensation for your damages.

Prior Blog Entry:

Poor Road Designs, Maintenance May Cause Phoenix Collisions, Phoenix Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 2, 2016.