California leads the nation in dog bite claims

When you think of injuries that are prevalent, one of the last things that may come to mind are dog bites. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite about 4.7 million people every year. Of those bitten, about 800,000 require medical treatment.

In addition to causing a significant number of injuries on an annual basis, dog bites also are a common cause of insurance claims. According to the Insurance Information Institute, about $479 million claims were paid on account of dog bites in 2011 alone, up from $413 million a year before.

California, the most populous state in terms of both humans and canines, unsurprisingly led the nation in dog bite claims. According to State Farm, 527 dog bite claims were filed in the Golden State in 2011, with the victims receiving a total of $20.3 million. Each individual claim averaged $38,500.

Because of the high number of dog bite claims in California and nationwide, some insurance companies are refusing to provide liability coverage for dog bites. Recently Farmers Insurance announced that it will no longer provide liability coverage for three particular breeds that are frequently the cause of a dog bite claim-wolf hybrids, rottweilers and pit bulls. According to the insurance company, these breeds cause a fourth of the claims and are more likely to cause serious injuries during an attack.

Dog bites and California law

Under California's dog bite law, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog regardless of whether the dog was vicious in the past. This law holds the owner much more accountable than some other states where the owner is liable only if he knew or should have known of the dog's likelihood to bite someone.

Although the owner is generally liable under the law, there is an exception. The law does not apply to government agencies that use dogs in police or military work if the bite occurred during the apprehension of a suspect or because the dog was defending itself against a provoking act.

Under California law, owners who are found liable are financially responsible for the injuries caused by the dog. Dog bite victims can recover damages such a present and future medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the circumstances and advise you of your right to compensation.