As we inch our way into summer in Southern California, Barry P. Goldberg warns that the warm weather brings in "dog bite" season as well. More kids running in the sprinklers, dogs on walks on and off leash, barbeques, swim parties and the Southern California lifestyle provide an easy explanation for the increase in dog bite incidents. Dog bites require special care.
State Farm Insurance Company, the largest insurer in the United States and in California collects data regarding claim payments to dog bite victims. It should be no great surprise that California consistently leads the way with the most claims and the largest payouts---by a mile. California home owners would be surprised to learn that Dog bite claims are the third most common type of claim filed by homeowners. Dog bites can have devastating physical and emotional effects. Dog bites create unsightly scars on the hands and faces of victims who are often children.
An attorney can properly document the injuries and assess liability factors which will result in fair compensation for these injuries. The insurers' best defense is almost always provocation or comparative fault. An attorney knows how to counter these defenses and work with animal behavior specialists in order to obtain fair compensation. With an unsightly scar, the settlements and jury verdicts can be substantial.
Most insurers have taken drastic steps to reduce the number of claims---not by educating the public and pushing for sensible dog bite laws---but by excluding the most common biting breeds from coverage. The excluded breeds and circumstances run the gamut from company to company. As of 2012, State Farm offered coverage for all breeds.
Because Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and German Shepherds account for the overwhelming number of both bites and severity of bites, most insurers exclude those breeds without much exception. Ironically, Automobile Club of Southern California does not exclude German Shepherds even though that breed accounts for the largest number of bites, by far.
Mr. Goldberg recommends that all homeowners who own dogs read their policies carefully and ask questions of their insurance companies and agents. It is far too dangerous to have an excluded breed that could cause literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Irrespective of insurance coverage, families with dogs need to take the time and effort to properly train their beloved pet so that the bites do not occur. Further, families need to teach their children to be cautious around unfamiliar dogs and to take no action that could provoke a bite. Parents need to have 100% oversight over their children whenever kids and dogs are together.