DOG BITE LITIGATION
The trial lawyers at The Moulton Law Firm have handled hundreds of dog bite cases over the years for major insurance companies. We have arbitrated and tried these cases in the courts of Arizona and are very knowledgeable about this particular area of the law. Arizona has adopted the common law rule involving dog bite liability. Under the common law, in order to prevail the plaintiff must prove knowledge of dangerous propensity abnormal to the animal class—the plaintiff must basically prove that the dog has bitten before. However, Arizona has also enacted several strict liability statutes that allow plaintiffs to recover without the need to prove knowledge of dangerous propensity. The statute of limitations is shorter for strict liability actions (one year as opposed to two). And there are specific statutory defenses that must be alleged (i.e., the provocation defense). If you have a need for experienced trial lawyers in this area, the attorneys at The Moulton Law Firm are available to provide this assistance.
For more information on the increasing prevalence and cost of dog bite cases, read below.
Prevalence of Dog Bites in the United States
Unfortunately, dog bites are a common occurrence. According to the American Products Manufacturers Association 2007–08 National Pet Owner Survey, there are approximately 75 million dogs in the United States. A survey by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta concluded that dog bites happen to approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population, about 4.7 million people, annually. About 800,000 bites per year, or one out of every six bites, are serious enough to require medical attention (Weiss HB, Friedman D, Coban JH, “Incidents of Dog Bite Injuries
Treated in Emergency Departments,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998; 279: 51, 53). Approximately 370,000 of the people involved in dog bites every year go to hospital emergency departments. According to the CDC, getting bitten by a dog is the fifth most frequent cause of a visit to the emergency room among children (Weiss, Friedman D, Coban JH, “Incidents of Dog Bite Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998; 279: 51, 53). According to the CDC, every year an American has a 1 in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog.
Dog attacks cost approximately $1 billion in monetary losses every year in the United States (“Take
the Bite Out of Man’s Best Friend,” State Farm Times 1998; 3(5); 2). And it is believed that the $1 billion estimate might actually be low. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that in 1995, State Farm Insurance paid $70 million in 11,000 claims and estimated
that the total annual insurance costs of dog bites was about $2 billion (Vulcar R, “Dog Bites Recognized as Public Health Problem,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 1997; 277; 278, 280).
According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites cost insurers approximately $350 million in 2002, $321.6 million in 2003, $317.2 million in 2005, $351.4 million in 2006 and $356.2 million in 2007. The average insurance payment on a dog bite claim grew from $16,600 in 2002 to $24,511 in 2006. Liability claims for dog bites are approximately 4 percent of all homeowners insurance claims. Dog bite claims in 2005 accounted for about 15 percent of the liability claims paid under homeowners insurance policies.
It appears that the number of dog bites has risen dramatically in the past 20 years. However, the number of dogs in the United States has only increased by 2 percent from 1991 to 1998.
The majority of dog bites involve either the dog’s family or a friend of the family. According to the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 50 percent of dog bites occur on the dog owner’s property.
Studies of dog bite injuries have reported the following:
- The median age of the patient bitten was 15 years. And children, especially boys age 5–9, have the highest incident rate. According to the CDC, the odds that a child will be bitten are 3.2 to 1.
- Children who are observed in emergency departments are more likely than older persons to have been bitten the face, neck or head. Sadly, 7 percent of injuries to children under 10 years old involve an injury to the face.
- Severe injuries occur almost exclusively in children younger than 10 years of age.
- The majority of dog bite incidents (61 percent) happen at home or in a familiar place for a child.
- When a child younger than 4 years old is bitten, the incident almost always happened in the family home (90 percent of the time).
Studies have also demonstrated that dog bites result in approximately 44,000 facial injuries in U.S. hospitals each year. The face is the most frequent target (77 percent of all injuries.) The exception to this is mail carriers—97 percent of the time, their injuries involve lower extremities.