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Report: California Leads Nation in Dog Bites

Posted: May 10, 2011, 7 p.m., EDT

State Farm reported today that California filed the most dog bite claims in 2010, accounting for $11.3 million in payouts.State Farm reported today that California filed the most dog bite claims in 2010, accounting for $11.3 million in payouts.

The company released its list of the top 10 states that filed dog bite claims last year. Overall, the Bloomington, Ill.-based insurance company said it paid more than $90 million in 2010 as a result of nearly 3,500 dog bite claims.

State Farm does not refuse insurance based on dog breed with the exception of the state of Ohio, which has determined that pit bulls meet the definition of a “vicious dog.”

A dog’s tendency to bite depends on such factors as heredity, obedience training, socialization, health and the victim’s behavior, according to State Farm.

“We believe there are good dogs and bad dogs within every breed, just as there can be responsible and irresponsible owners of each breed,” the company commented.

However, under the right circumstances, any dog might bite, the company warned.

Children account for more than 60 percent of all dog bite victims, State Farm reported. Of the 33 dog bites that resulted in death last year, 20 of the fatalities were young children, according to the company.

The top 10 states for State Farm dog bite claims in 2010 were:

1. California: 369 claims, $11.3 million claims paid
2. Illinois: 317 claims, $9.7 million claims paid
3. Ohio: 215 claims, $5.7 million claims paid
4. Texas: 202 claims, $3.7 million claims paid
5. Michigan: 166 claims, $5.2 million claims paid
6. Pennsylvania: 155 claims, $3.9 million claims paid
7. Florida: 146 claims, $5.6 million claims paid
8. Minnesota: 139 claims, $3.4 million claims paid
9. New York: 119 claims, $4.3 million claims paid
10. Indiana: 114 claims, $1.8 million claims paid.

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Report: California Leads Nation in Dog Bites

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This works out to an average $30,623.31 paid out per claim, which says something about the problem of dogs not kept under control by their owners.
If you love dogs, which I do (three Labs at home plus cats, etc.) then you know that there are pet owners who refuse to keep their dogs properly fenced on their property, or keep overly aggressive animals (in Los Angeles, pit bulls are a big problem) or just don’t understand that pet ownership is a responsibility as well as a privilege.
In California, dangerous animals give rise to owner liability under Civil Code section 3342, better known as the “Dog Bite Statute.”
And, by the way, in California, there is no “every dog gets one free bite” standard when it comes to injury claims.
The standard jury instruction (CACI 463) says that there is liability when an injured plaintiff proves:
1.That the defendant owned the dog;
2.That the dog bit the plaintiff while he/she was in a public place or lawfully on private property;
3.That the plaintiff was injured;
4.That the defendant’s dog was a substantial factor causing plaintiff’s harm.
Irresponsible owners should be held liable for the injuries their animals cause. Of course, it’s always better to head off the harm in the first place.
Bill Daniels, Encino, CA
Posted: 5/18/2011 12:50:06 PM
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