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Dog bites are not insurance rate's best friends

The number of dog bites fell by 1.4 percent in 2012, but these incidents continue to account for a third of all homeowner liability claims. On average, a claim involving a dog bite was just under $30,000. However, it should be noted, that some insurance companies include all injuries involving dogs in their statistics. This would include situations where the dog jumped and knocked someone down or surprised the person, causing them to fall and be injured.

In general, dog bites are covered under homeowner's insurance. This covers the owner if someone is attacked in their home or if, for example, the dog bites someone while out for a walk. Limits for dog bites usually range up to $300,000. Insurers often don't ask about dogs when they initially write the insurance policy, but if a bite happens, the rates can go up or the dog can be excluded from coverage.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims more than half the dog bite victims are children. The United States Postal services says approximately 5,900 employees were attacked by dogs in 2012. A group called Prevent the Bite supplies tips for approaching dogs. They advise waiting to see if the dog is acting friendly and with an owner, to ask permission before petting the dog, to stand with fingers curled at your side and let the dog sniff, and finally to touch the dog in a gentle manner. If a dog appears unfriendly or doesn't approach for a sniff, walk slowly away.

Dog bites are a major issue for pet owners and insurance companies. If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, it may be useful to allow a personal injury attorney to review the circumstances of the case. It may be possible to reach a settlement that covers the expenses relating to the injury along with pain and suffering.

Source: The New York Times, "Dog Bites Can Raise Your Insurance Premiums", Ann Carrns, June 27, 2013

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