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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Facts About Dog Bite Lawsuits

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

A large number of dog bite lawsuits occur every year. In 2001, over 350,000 people were bitten severely enough to require a visit to the emergency room. Of course, not all of those people sued the owner.

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Owners and caretakers probably receive more bites than any other group. Friends and family members of the owner account for 77% of insurance claims according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Homeowner's policies generally cover bites that occur in the home. 50% of the 14,500 claims made in 2007 were for bites occurring in pet owner's homes or yards. The average payout was $24,511 for each of those claims. The total paid by insurance companies in that same year was over $351 million.

Many people adopt or buy a breed without becoming familiar with the animal's natural tendencies. Some owners fail to train their dogs adequately.

It is particularly important that a large dog be trained. The animal can cause injury accidentally by bumping against a child or knocking down an older adult. So injuries are not limited to bites alone.

Australian Shepherd with black background

Jenny Sturm /

Figures compiled by Merritt Clinton between 1982 and 2006 provide interesting information. The report includes attacks that were reported to the police or animal control and only those in which the breed could be accurately identified.

It is safe to say that all of the cases counted in the report were also dog bite lawsuits, because the victims were killed, maimed or required extensive medical treatment. In other words, they were the most severe cases. The total was 2209.

14,500 is not an unusually high number for insurance claims. It might seem that way when you learn that only 33 of the bites were from identifiable breeds and resulted in serious injury.

15,000 claims were paid by insurers in 2005; 20,000 in 2003. One can only imagine how many bites actually occurred. It would require a great deal of research to determine how many dog bite lawsuits were filed in all of the different jurisdictions of the US alone. The problem is not limited to the US. It is far worse in many countries.

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Does Your Insurance Cover Dog Bite Lawsuits?

Some people are unaware that their homeowner's policy covers dog bites. Of those that do, many are afraid to file for fear of being cancelled or causing their rates to go up. When victims win dog bite lawsuits, insurance companies usually pay.

The breed is an important consideration, which is the reason Merritt Clinton has compiled information concerning bites from identifiable breeds for over 20 years. Some breeds are considered more dangerous than others. An owner that keeps a dangerous breed and fails to confine the animal appropriately may be held liable, even in states adhering to the "one-bite rule".

The one-bite rule is sometimes viewed as archaic. The majority of US states are "strict liability" states, which means that the owners are always liable, regardless of whether the animal has bitten before or is considered dangerous.

Victims in one-bite states should contact a dog bite injury lawyer. They may still be able to win dog bite lawsuits, but an attorney's help is needed. Basically, the law says that owners cannot be held liable for the first injury caused by their pet. The logic being, the owner did not know biting was in the dog's nature.

All dogs can and will bite. Even in one-bite states, the owners can be held liable if their mistreatment of the animal was the cause of the behavioral problem. Dogs that are abused, neglected, underfed or sick are more aggressive. Proving that the owner's negligence caused the dog's behavioral problems would usually require an investigation by the local SPCA or animal control officers.

To get more information about dog bite lawsuits, contact an attorney. The laws are too complex to tackle on your own. icon

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

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