As Insurers Warn Of Dog Bite Liability, Heroic Cat Video Seems Apropos

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During the same week the property-casualty insurance industry announced “national dog bite prevention week,” an online video went viral showing a cat racing to fight off a dog as it attacked a small child.

Perhaps State Farm has a new mascot?

On Wednesday, the Insurance Information Institute issued its annual statistics about insurance claims related to dogs biting, scratching or knocking down people. The third week in May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, a public service campaign observed by the U.S. Postal Service, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations.

It turns out, dog bites account for more than one-third of the money insurers pay in homeowners’ liability claims. Last year, dog bite liabilities in the U.S. cost insurers a total of $483 million, according to the insurance institute and State Farm, the largest insurers of homes.

Liability claims, however, are a small portion of the cost of all homeowners’ claims. Property damage from fire, lightning, wind, hail, water, theft and other causes accounted for 97.6 percent of homeowners’ insurance losses in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That year, liability claims were only 2.4 percent of losses, which is to say, the amount insurers paid in claims.

In Connecticut, State Farm paid 38 claims totaling $1.9 million last year, up from 17 claims for a total of $628,860 in 2012.

The number of dog-bite claims nationwide was up 5.5 percent last year from 2012, but the average cost of a claim dropped 6.4 percent. An average dog-bite claims cost $27,862 last year, down from $29,752 a year earlier.

The old journalism expression is, “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

When a cat bites a dog — or at least chases one away, that’s a YouTube sensation.

ESTIMATED NUMBER AND COST OF DOG BITE CLAIMS nationwide, 2003-2013

Year Value of claims ($ millions) Number of claims Average cost per claim
2003 $324.2 16,919 $19,162
2004 318.9 15,630 20,406
2005 321.1 14,295 22,464
2006 322.4 14,661 21,987
2007 356.2 14,531 24,511
2008 387.0 15,823 24,461
2009 412.0 16,586 24,840
2010 412.6 15,770 26,166
2011 490.8 16,695 29,396
2012 489.7 16,459 29,752
2013 483.7 17,359 27,862
Percent change, 2012-2013 -1.2% 5.5% -6.4%
Percent change, 2003-2013 49.2 2.6 45.4
Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

  TOP 10 STATES WITH ESTIMATED NUMBER AND COST OF DOG BITE CLAIMS, 2013

State Number of claims Average cost per claim Value of claims ($ millions)
CA 1,919 $33,709 $64.7
NY 965 43,122 41.6
OH 948 18,853 17.9
IL 914 28,941 26.5
PA 909 29,078 26.4
MI 866 24,700 21.4
TX 775 19,339 15.0
IN 503 25,502 12.8
AZ 488 27,556 13.4
WI 449 31,629 14.2
Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

 

About Matthew Sturdevant

Full-time staff journalist at The Hartford Courant and magazine freelancer with a master's degree in writing from Dartmouth. My work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Taiwan News, The Baltimore Sun and many other news sources. My blog has been referenced by Politico.com, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Georgetown Law Library and a number of organizations in healthcare and business. Sturdevant’s blog is "a well-written wealth of ideas," said The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, (businessjournalism.org, May 18, 2011). I have experience writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. I made regular appearances on news-talk radio and on the NBC affiliate station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I made occasional appearances on the Fox affiliate in Connecticut promoting Hartford Courant articles.

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