6:00: Morning News

Dog bites can lead to costly claims

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although dogs are a popular pet, they can also be expensive. The cost of liability for a dog can be exponentially higher than the normal expenses associated with food, grooming, and vet care.

“You’re looking at the average dog bite claim costing more than $37,000,” said State Farm Insurance Spokesman Dave Phillips.

State Farm, West Virginia’s largest insurance carrier, released figures for dog bite claims recently.  The survey ranked West Virginia in a tie for #30 with Oklahoma for the most dog bite claims last year.

“In West Virginia we had 28 claims,” said Phillips. “Although that sounds relatively small, keep in mind just for the state of West Virginia those 28 bites cost almost $400,000 in claim payouts.”

The costs associated with a dog bite claims are steep because of the nature of the injuries according to Phillips.  The victims are often children and the injuries are often to the face.  The cost for medical care to repair facial injuries or restore lost senses like site, hearing, and taste can also be much higher than normal medical claims because of the specialization of the treatment.

If you choose to own a dog, be aware it can bite, regardless of the breed, Phillips advised.  As summer approaches he also suggested being more aware of what impact changes in the season will have on your pet.

“The summer months are coming up and we’re going to be barbecuing and doing a whole lot more outdoors and you’ll be hosting parties at the house,” he said. “The dog’s environment is changing and they’re going to be interacting with a lot of new and different people so you need to be aware of that.”

You are responsible for any bites or injuries caused by  your dog and often the liability is covered by your home owners insurance policy.  State Farm doesn’t discriminate on rates by breed, but Phillips added if a dog has a history of biting people it’s possible the animal could be excluded from a home owner’s State Farm policy for liability coverage.

The other area of concern is among mail carriers.   The U.S.Postal Service issued a report which indicated a sharp increase in postal employees being bitten by dogs. Part of the increase is attributed to evening and Sunday delivery, but Phillips added the most vulnerable spot for a postal carrier was during the face-to-face hand-off of a package at the front door.

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