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Posted on Jun 18, 2019

When the dog bites, the insurance does, too

A dog bite is always unpleasant, and often, dangerous. When canines attack, they mean to do harm. The harm is the owner’s responsibility, and it can quickly damage the owner’s homeowner’s policy.
And, Quincy Valley has its share of dog attacks. In 2018, Quincy Valley Medical Center treated 16 individuals for dog bites. Last year, Quincy Police Department received 26 calls for a dangerous animal bite or attack. That was down by nine from 2017, when there were 35 similar reports.
According to the NW Insurance Council, home insurers in Washington paid $11 million to settle 317 dog bite claims in 2018 (data originally acquired from the Insurance Information Institute). The number is startling: a little over 300 dog bites amounted to $11 million in damages and legal fees.
Considering the mental and physical anguish a dog bite inflicts along with possible infections and long-term injuries, a pet’s vicious behavior can be costly to its owner.
A dog bite carries a very high possibility of infection, either tetanus or rabies. The injuries tend to go much deeper than just the skin and can cause muscular damage, if not broken bones. The possible bacteria present from a dog bite are streptococcus, staphylococcus and pasteurella multocida. All these conditions require medical attention.
Most homeowners and renters policies cover the dog bite liability – up to a certain amount. If the claim exceeds the amount stated in the policy, it falls onto the pet’s owner to cover any remaining expenses. Considering the cost of hospital treatments, maybe surgery, it is no small amount – 317 dog bites can quickly become an $11 million affair, averaging almost $34,700 per claim.
Some breeds are not included in insurance policies due to the dogs’ known characteristics. A pet may also be excluded from the policy if there have been previous incidents of aggressive behavior. It is also possible that after a dog attacks someone, the insurance company will charge a higher premium or refuse to renew the policy.
According to www.maxlaws.com, the most likely breeds to bite are a pitbull, a Rottweiler and a German shepherd.
From a dog-owner’s point of view, the best way to keep the pet from affecting the insurance policy are preventative measures, such as proper training and control of the dog, as well as spaying or neutering it. According to studies, a spayed or neutered dog is less likely to bite.
While in Quincy it is no longer a requirement to have a dog spayed or neutered, it may be still be worth considering. Even a well-behaved dog can become unexpectedly agitated and attack a person or another dog. Then, there goes the insurance policy, sky-high like a rocket, not to mention the goodwill of one’s neighbors.
The statutory liability under the Washington dog bite statute in the Revised Code of Washington, section 16.08.040, states: “The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
In other words, there is no excuse if your dog bites someone.

By Jaana Hatton, For the Post-Register