The number of dog bite claims across the country increased 2.2% from 2020, according to a study released last week.
Dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost U.S. homeowners insurers $881 million in 2021, accounting for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim payments, according to an analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) and State Farm.
The study found the number of dog bite claims across the country increased 2.2% from 2020 but the average cost per claim in 2021 was $49,025, a decrease from 2020 by 1.1%. However, over the last decade, the cost per claim has increased by 39%. The value of all claims has risen 44% over the last 10 years as well.
“There was a slight decrease in the 2021 average cost per claim," explained Janet Ruiz, director – strategic communication, Triple-I. “However, there was a steep increase in that cost over the past 10 years, no doubt due to increased medical costs, as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs."
California continued to have the largest number of claims in the U.S.—2,026 of the entire country's 17,989 incidents—as well as the highest value of claims at $120.7 million and the highest average cost per claim in 2021, at $59,561. Florida came in second place, with 1,478 claims at an average cost per claim of $54,820 and a total value of $81 million.
The report suggests one possible cause for the rise in dog-related claims: Aggressive and destructive behavior can be caused by behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety, as pet owners return to the workplace or school as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.
“The best way to protect yourself is to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place," the report says. “The most dangerous dogs are those that fall victim to human shortcomings, such as poor training, irresponsible ownership and breeding practices that foster viciousness."
Triple-I recommends training classes for Fido, teaching kids the basics of dog safety, and other ways to prevent pets from causing harm. In addition to behavioral training and responsible pet ownership practices, an umbrella policy or pet liability coverage may also be a good idea for pet owners.
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.