For the first time, State Farm, the country’s largest home and auto insurer, has released detailed figures about the number of dog bite claims it pays and the amounts paid out as a result of dog bites nationwide.
California ranks first among the states with the most dog bite claims. In 2010, 369 claims were filed as a result of dog bites in California, and $11.3 million was paid out. The average claim paid out was $30,600. State Farm will not refuse to insure a home owner because of a dog’s breed, but does require its policyholders to answer questions about their dogs’ history on the homeowners’ insurance applications. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that nationwide, insurers paid out $412 million in dog bite claims in 2009. In 2010, 33 deaths were caused by dog bites in the U.S.
California law provides strict liability against the owner of a dog for bites, even if the dog has never bitten before. (Civil Code § 3342) There is also common law strict liability for instances in which a domestic animal with dangerous propensities bites or otherwise injures another person. Further, there may also be negligence per se for violation of your local leash law.
So how can you prevent a dog bite? If you own, keep or control a dog, make certain that the dog is on a leash when it is off of your property. Warn people on your property of the presence of your dog. Don’t encourage children or strangers to pet your dog. And avoid keeping dogs or other domestic animals with unusually dangerous natures or tendencies.
Do not ever approach an unfamiliar dog, and don’t run away from a dog or scream at a dog. If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless. If it knocks you over, roll into a ball and lie still. Don’t allow your children to play with a dog unsupervised. Don’t pet a dog that is sleeping, eating or taking care of puppies. Also, don’t pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
Before bringing a new dog into your house, consult with a vet about which breed would be a good fit with your family. Don’t bring a dog into the house if one of your children seems frightened by it. Spend a lot of time with the dog before deciding to adopt it. Once you decide on a dog, have it spayed or neutered to reduce aggressiveness. Don’t leave your young children alone with the dog, and don’t wrestle with the dog.
If you follow some basic safety tips, you can greatly reduce the odds of a dog bite. If you or a loved one has been bitten by another person’s dog, contact Orange County dog bite attorney Don Sjaarda at 714-963-8216 to learn what steps to take to protect your legal rights.