How to Interpret?
A recent study by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) shows dog bite claims cost nearly $390 million annually. According to the study, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, costing $387.20 million in 2008, up 8.70 percent from 2007. Since 2003, the average cost of these claims ($24,461 in 2008) has risen nearly 28 percent. Additionally, the number of claims has increased 8.89 percent to 15,823 in 2008 from 14,531 in 2007.
The I.I.I. data certainly legitimizes a public policy discussion on the topic. Yet it is important to point out two aspects of the data as well:
- How does the data reflect the average pit bull owner and pit bull bite claim given that most homeowners insurance providers exclude pit bulls, rottweilers and other "high risk" dog breeds from their coverage?
- The data only shows the cost of the homeowner. It does not show the many costs paid by renters insurance, health insurance, workers compensation insurance and public programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
Loretta Worters, vice president of the I.I.I., states in the news release, "Although some people purchase dogs for the purpose of guarding their homes, deadbolt locks and home security systems are safe burglary deterrents and that will often earn you a discount on your insurance premium." Yet the types of dogs used for the purpose of "guarding" a home are often pit bulls and rottweilers, the two dog breeds most commonly excluded from homeowners insurance coverage.
Q: Who wants to pay for the cost of a pit bull or rottweiler bite?
A: Not most insurers.
In Ohio, where $100,000 liability insurance is required by pit bull owners, the cost is about $50-$65 per month and up to $800 annually. This applies to a pit bull that does not have a bite record. The pit bull policy has a $5,000 deductible and is separate from a homeowners policy. According to the I.I.I., the average premium for homeowners insurance was $804 in 2006, which includes dog bite coverage, but excludes pit bull coverage, as such policies typically do not cover the breed.
It's interesting that the cost of insuring one pit bull with no previous bites is similar to the cost of ensuring a whole home with an average value of $265,000.
11/19/08: $495,000 Settlement for New Jersey Woman Mauled by a Pit Bull
06/19/08: Flashback: $500,000 Award for Pain in Pit Bull Attack
06/11/08: Pit Bull Victim Alan Hill Awarded $7.25 Million Dollars