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Are Dog Bites Responsible for 1/3 of Homeowner Insurance Claims?

Are Dog Bites Responsible for 1/3 of Homeowner Insurance Claims?

According to Time Magazine, man's best friend might be responsible for one third of the money paid in homeowner liability claims. In the past ten years, the number of dog bite injury claims has remained consistent, but the volume of compensation paid by insurance companies to plaintiffs has escalated to a startling $489.7 million.

According to researchers, $489.7 million is the amount of money paid to dog bite victims through homeowner's insurance claims across the nation - one third of the total money paid in homeowner's liability insurance claims last year. Since 2003, the amount paid for dog bite injuries has escalated by more than 50%.

Why the Sharp Increase?

The Insurance information Institute (III) and State Farm® speculate that the cost of medical treatment could be responsible for large dollar amount. Additionally, statistics indicate that juries became more generous to dog bite victims in recent years. In 2003, the average dog bite insurance claim produced a $19,162 settlement. In 2012, this number shot up to $29,752. These amounts reflect a slow but steady increase in dog bite injury settlements over the past decade.

Georgia's Dog Bite Liability Laws

When it comes to animal bites, Georgia law holds pet owners to "strict liability," but the animal must be considered dangerous, first.

A successful dog bite liability claim hinges on three factors:

  1. If the dog is vicious
  2. Whether the owner was negligent or not
  3. If the victim provoked the animal to attack

If the injured person somehow triggered the attack – by threatening, intimidating, or hurting the dog, etc. – the owner will not be held liable the bite.

What Does Georgia Law Say?

On the other hand, the owner could be held responsible for the injury if he/she failed to warn visitors that the animal was dangerous or allowed the dog to run freely in a public location. According to Georgia law, § 51-2-7, dog owners are responsible to control their pets. This statute also notes that in order to demonstrate that an animal is vicious, the plaintiff only needs to show that city ordinance required the owner to keep the animal on a leash.

Thus, an otherwise friendly dog could be "vicious" if its owner failed to conform to city leash laws. This statute is not limited to dogs and can apply to most pets, excluding livestock and birds. Atlanta's dog leash laws fall under Fulton County regulations, which states that dogs should be kept on a leash that is less than six feet in length. If the owner fails to keep his/her dog (or other pet) on an adequate leash, the owner may be responsible for any accident or injury that the pet causes.

If you or a loved one has been bit by a dog or hurt on someone else's property, call Henningsen Injury Attorneys, P.C. for representation in Atlanta. We offer free consultations.

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