In 2022, homeowners and renters’ insurers paid out more than $1 billion in dog-related injury claims, most of them children. This is a whopping 28% increase over 2021 even though there were fewer claims, according to State Farm Insurance and the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). In 2021, there were nearly 18,000 claims for dog-related injuries. Last year, there were about 400 fewer claims, but the amount paid out was $1.13 billion, with an average cost of $64,555 per claim compared to $882 million in 2021, with an average cost per claim of $49,025.
Florida is one of five states where one-third of the dog related injury claims were filed. Specifically, in 2022, approximately 1,331 dog related injury claims were filed in Florida, with the had the second highest average cost per claim of $78,203. The most dog related injury claims were filed in California, which also had the highest average cost per claim at $78,818.
Typically, homeowners or renters insurance policies cover dog bite liability; however, some insurance companies will not insure injuries caused by certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, while other insurers decide which dogs are covered on a case-by-case basis considering factors such as the dog’s previous history. Due to the increasing number of claims in Florida, most homeowners policies now contain blanket exclusions for all dog related liability claims unless the homeowner specifically purchases an endorsement for their pet. There appears to be a distinction in how dogs are treated in insurance policies in Florida, as generally speaking, most renters policies cover dog related liability claims. The available limits for dog related claims depends on the limits of liability in the homeowners or renters policies, which generally ranges from $100,000.00 to $300,000.00 although we have seen lower limits as well in the $25,000.00 to $50,000.00 range.
Assuming there is coverage for a dog related injury claim, there must also be liability or fault on the part of the pet owner. Shockingly, not every state in the Country has laws for dog bites. There are no laws for dog bites in four states including: Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi and North Dakota. The remainder of the states have laws for dog bites including the one free bite rule. In fact, this rule is one of the first things a first-year law student learns in tort class. “Every dog gets one free bite,” meaning the first time a dog inflicts a bite on a person, the owner is not responsible for the medical costs, but once an owner is on notice the dog has vicious tendencies, it is up to the owner to keep the dog under control and to compensate the victim for injuries. And these costs are decidedly not free.
While one bite free is the law in many states, it is not the rule in Florida. Dog owners are strictly liable in Florida under Florida Statutes Sections 767.01 and 767.04 for injuries caused by their pet regardless of whether the animal had attacked before and despite any prior knowledge the owner had for his or her animal’s vicious propensities.
While the owner is strictly liable in Florida for the damages caused by his or her dog, an emerging issue is whether a non-dog owner can be responsible for injuries caused on his or her premises. Claims against non-owners have increased in view of the trend by businesses to allow guests with pets into their establishment. Generally speaking, claims against premises owners for injuries caused by another’s dog are challenging absent prior knowledge of the animal’s vicious propensities. There may be additional grounds to hold a business establishment responsible for dog related injury claims if there was a local rule, statute or internal policy or procedure that prohibited non-service dogs from entering the premises. Ultimately, whether there is liability against a non-owner is a fact intensive analysis that is done on a case by case basis.
If you are one of the 4.5 million people bitten by a dog each year, you should seek immediate legal counsel from an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer and Dog Bite Attorney like David B. Datny, Esq. at The Datny Law Firm. We are located in Boca Raton, Wellington, Winter Park and help injured dog bite victims throughout Florida. We are available any time at 561-221-7474. Consultations are FREE and there is no fee unless we settle your case.