National estimates indicate that between 70 and 80 million dogs are kept as pets in households across the country, and many of those canines live right here in Arizona. Dogs can be a wonderful addition to many families and can provide anything from entertainment to security to a home but there are certain risks that come with owning a dog that are often overlooked.
Dog bites and animal attacks are a significant issue in Phoenix. It is the duty of anyone who owns a dog to ensure that the dog does not bite others or harm individuals in any manner, and failing to do so may make that owner liable for any injuries that result. Surprisingly, Americans are about twice as likely to be injured in a dog bite incident every year as they are to be hurt in a car accident yet little attention is paid to these attacks until one affects someone you love.
Now, new information from the Insurance Information Institute concludes that dog bite claims in Arizona are more expensive to resolve than those in any other state with a high number of claims.
In 2015, the average dog bite claim settled for $37,214 which was 16 percent higher than claims in 2014. Among the 10 states with the greatest number of claims, Arizona ranked first with an average settlement cost of $56,654 followed by California and New York. Overall, the number of claims made last year for dog bites reflected a seven percent reduction from 2014 but the average cost per claim was higher, indicating that the dog bites taking place in 2015 caused more severe damage.
In Arizona, owners of dogs face strict liability if their dog harms another person. This means that even if a dog does not have a violent past or a propensity for biting, an owner will still be held liable for the injuries that stem from a biting incident, including all medical expenses that will be incurred by a victim for needed treatment of injuries.
Incidents with dogs can range widely with some victims sustaining only minor injuries that do not need medical attention and others may lose their lives in an attack. Far too often, it is an owner who fails to secure a dog or fails to otherwise control or restrain an animal that directly leads to these attacks which can forever change the lives of all those involved. Typically, homeowners insurance policies and some renter’s insurance policies provide coverage for these incidents but the coverage may be inadequate if the harm is particularly severe or fatal. In that case, owners may be exposed to any additional damages and may be forced to compensate victims directly.
If you have a dog, it is crucial that you understand it is your duty to control your dog at all times and to prevent it from harming others, even if those others are on your personal property. Make sure you have your dog well trained and conditioned to ignore people walking by your home, coming onto your property to deliver a package or the mail, or solicitors who may be in the area.
If you are in the presence of a dog that is not restrained, do not assume that it will act in an appropriate manner. Instead, consider crossing the street to put additional distance between yourself and the dog. Do not try to scare or frighten the dog as this is likely to trigger an attack response by the animal. Instead, avoid eye contact and divert your route if needed so you can remain as safe as possible.
Prior Blog Entry:
Ride a Bike in Tempe? Know the Rules of the Road, Phoenix Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 16, 2016.
Number of Dog Bite Insurance Claims Falls But Average Claim Rises to $37K, by Emma Orr, Insurance Journal, published May 12, 2016.