The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4.7 million Americans are bitten each year by dogs. In Kentucky, dog owners and handlers are strictly liable to a victim who was bitten by their dogs or for any injury or damage their dogs cause. Section 258.235 of Kentucky Revised Statutes provides that:
Any owner whose dog is found to have caused damage to a person, livestock or other property shall be responsible for that damage.
If a dog has caused damage to someone or to his/her property, its owner or handler is directly responsible for the medical expenses, pain and suffering. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will cover the damages.
The cost of dog bites
In 2012, the cost of dog bite claims totaled $489 million, which is more than one-third of all homeowners liability claims paid in that year. Based on the analysis of homeowner’s insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), the value of claims has gone upward since 2003. From 2003 to 2012, it has increased by 51%. Likewise, the average dog bite claim payout rose from $19,162 (2003) to $29,752 (2012), an increase of 55%. In 2011, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $29,396.
If your dog has bitten someone, your insurance will cover dog liability/dog bite claims with limits up to $100,000 or $300,000. However, if the claim exceeds this limit, you will be responsible for all damages above the amount, including legal expenses. Also, your insurer is likely to charge a higher premium, exclude your dog from coverage or choose not to renew your insurance policy.
How to protect yourself from a dog bite law suit
In order to protect yourself from dog bite liability cases, prevent your dog from biting anyone. Be a responsible dog owner and properly train your dog. CDC recommends the following steps to reduce the chances of your dog biting someone:
- Consult with a professional to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and neighborhood.
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it.
- Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful of or apprehensive about a dog. If they are, delay getting a dog.
- Have your dog spayed or neutered.
- Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other people and animals.
- Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Play non-aggressive games with your dog.
- Avoid exposing your dog to new situations in which you are unsure of its response.
- Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
- Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists or responsible breeders if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
Remember that owning a dog is a big responsibility. If you work a lot or don’t have the time to be with a dog, then you may want to consider waiting to get one. This is because a dog needs time to be trained and socialized, and if you can’t do that, then the dog could bite someone by mistake. However, if you apply these tips above, they will help prevent a dog bite and a lawsuit, too.