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Dog bite insurance payouts are on the rise in California

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a national insurance industry group, about one-third of all homeowner's liability insurance claims are made in connection with dog bite injuries. Although this percentage has remained constant for about the last decade, however, the average cost per dog bite claim has increased by about 25 percent in the same time period, topping out at $29,000 in 2011.

Because the number of dog bite liability claims has remained steady, hovering between 15,000 and 16,000 each year, this jump is largely attributed to increases in medical costs. Insurer State Farm, for example, says that it paid out nearly $110 million in 2011 to settle 3,800 dog bite claims made in California and throughout the country.

Homeowner's liability insurance provides coverage for injuries or damage that occur on the homeowner's property, such as someone slipping on an icy sidewalk, being bitten by your dog or otherwise getting injured at your home. But many homeowners are not aware that their homeowner's insurance covers dog bites even if the incidents do not happen on their property. For example, if you are at a dog park and your pet bites someone there, that person can make a claim against your homeowner's insurance policy.

Most homeowner's insurance policies include dogs as part of the standard coverage, with set payment maximums. However, if your dog has previously bitten someone your insurer may increase your insurance premiums, require you to enroll your dog in behavior modification classes or exclude your dog from coverage altogether.

Source: The New York Times, "Beware of Biting Dogs (and Liability Claims)," Ann Carrns, May 22, 2012

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