Yes, we know that Fido is an adorable pet that ‘wouldn’t hurt anyone’. However, we also know that insurance companies pay millions of dollars each year for dog bite medical, surgical and liability lawsuit settlements.

There are reportedly close to 90 million dogs living in homes in the U.S, and while we realize that many never bite, the ones that do have caused some insurance companies to surcharge certain breeds.

This blog won’t get into which breeds do and do not bite. After 30 years now in this business I’ve had clients with the most docile dog bite a young child only because the dog was going blind (unknown to her owners), and when the child approached from the side the dog didn’t see her and then was frightened. I know from my experiences that even the best dogs in certain situations can and do bite.

In 2017, Michigan still ranked #6 as it has since 2002, for having 153 dog bites which doesn’t seem like a big deal. The price tag of over $6,000,000 to insurance companies for those dog bites, is, however, why companies have surcharges on certain breeds.

We see and hear almost daily now about ‘big data’ and how companies are going after this data and stealing it any and every way they can (i.e. Facebook’s recent breech as well as names we hear weekly on the news). Insurance companies have some of the most comprehensive data on their clients including number of claims paid, types of dogs those claims were paid on, severity of bite categorized by breed, and areas where dog bites seem to bring more money from sympathetic judges and juries.

If you add up ‘just’ the top 10 States for dog bite claims, the total paid in 2017 was more than $74,000,000.

Most dog bites aren’t actual attacks resulting in major surgeries. Most are, however, inflicted on children which require surgery over years as they grow. Dog bites on children are more expensive due to their being a juvenile, but also, they tend to approach with their faces close to dogs and those bites many times require reconstructive survery or several surgeries over a span of a few years as they grow.

I can also tell you from experience that dog bites on girls are more expensive from a lawsuit standpoint than boys; but I also had a client who had a dog put a 1/8th of an inch scratch on a neighbor’s 7 or 8-year-old son and we paid $20,000 to settle the claim.

Prevention is really the only thing that you can do to help keep from being in the situation of a lawsuit from the action of your pets. (we won’t go into claims from things like snakes because it gives me the chills to even think about snakes).

When adopting a pet, do your homework and know the background on the pet you are purchasing. If they lived life chained in a yard with no interaction with any children and you suddenly bring it home to a house filled with daycare kids, having it bite one of the children in your care wouldn’t shock many people.

Actively socialize with your pet, taking it out often to be among children and adults while you are there proactively watching and monitoring the situation will also help make the pet comfortable with a lot of noise, as well as people and children approaching it.

Use a leash or restraint when out in the public with your pet and make sure to caution people to approach slowly so as not to frighten the pet. Educate your own children as well to always ask for permission before approaching a dog they see while walking and to be calm and slow approaching it with the owner’s permission.

You can definitely Google other ideas (which is what I did to write this blog), but the bottom line is a little of time and thought process up front with a new pet can prevent people from being hurt first and foremost, and from you having to be involved in litigation due to an incident that perhaps could have been totally avoided.

As always, we are here to assist with your home, car, business, life or liability insurance questions and protection.