Dog bites have been referred to as a serious public health problem by at least one major insurer. Another insurer paid out $90 million on dog bite claims resulting from around 3,500 dog bites. The Insurance Information Institute reported that dog-related injuries made up a third of homeowner’s insurance claim payments in West Virginia and across the country in 2017. The total cost of dog bite claims against homeowner’s policies came to nearly $700 million.
Data maintained by the Insurance Information Institute indicates that the cost of an average claim increased by greater than 90% between 2003 and 2017. The increase was attributed to bigger settlements, jury awards and judgments as well as rising medical costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2017 that roughly 4.5 million dog bite incidents happen annually nationwide. Almost 20% of dog bites become infected. The law around dog bites is a mix of county and city regulations, state statutes and case law.
The outcome of a particular dog bite case is fact-dependent, but generally speaking, if the owner of a dog knows that the dog may bite, he or she may be liable. Most states hold the dog owner liable for negligence if it results in injuries to a person caused by the dog. Liability may depend on where the bite happened, such as on or off the owner’s premises, for example.
In cases where a person suffers injuries due to a dog bite in West Virginia, he or she may want to seek the advice of a lawyer. A lawyer who has experience handling premises liability cases might be able to help by examining the facts of the case and interviewing witnesses to put together a dog bite claim for trial. A lawyer might be able to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the dog owner or the insurer.