Woof! California Top Dog In Bites

By | May 16, 2012

California is the top dog in State Farm’s annual list of dog bite claims, and the state’s reported 527 dog bite claims and more than $20 million paid out in 2011 by the Bloomington, Ill.-based carrier represents an increase of more than 30 percent from last year.

This year’s figure represents an increase in bite claims. In 2010 State Farm reported 401 dog bite claims in California, according to company spokesman Eddie Martinez, who didn’t have a good explanation for the increase.

“That represents a 31 percent increase in claims,” he said, adding, “no we don’t have the cause of claim increases.”

If you take the number of claims paid out and divide that by the total amount paid, that amounts to an average of $38,000 per claim in California.

However, Martinez cautioned, “the fact remains that each one of these claims are handled on their merits.”

He said the claims they see run the gamut from people who were bitten and received only a minor skin abrasion to those were severely mauled.

The total number of claims rose nationally as did the payouts, but only slightly, according to the report from State Farm.

The 2010 national figure of 3,671 dog bite claims represented $96.6 million in payouts, and an average cost per claim of $26,000. In 2011 there were 3,750 claims and roughly $109 million paid for an average cost per claim of $29,000.

The Insurance Information Network estimates that in 2011 insurers nationally paid $479 million in dog bite claims, although the American Humane Society places that figure at $1 billion.

According to the American Humane Society roughly 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S. Many of the fatal attacks come from male dogs (92 percent), most of which were not neutered. The group also states that seven-in-10 bites occur to the extremities and two thirds of bites occur on or near the victim’s property.

All claims paid by State Farm were under homeowners’ liability coverage, according to Martinez, who notes the carrier lays claim to having the most homeowners’ policies in the Golden State.

“We’re No. 1 in homeowners insurance in California,” Martinez said.

Below is State Farm’s top 10 states list:

Top 10 States for State Farm Dog Bite Claims in 2011

State Number of claims Claims paid (estimated)
1. California 527 $20.3 million
2. Illinois 309 $10.0 million
3. Texas 219 $5.1 million
4. Ohio 215 $5.4 million
5. Pennsylvania 197 $4.9 million
6. Michigan 181 $7.0 million
7. Florida 157 $5.1 million
8. Indiana 139 $3.5 million
9. New York 133 $6.1 million
10. Minnesota 117 $3.5 million

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