The Economics of Animal Attacks
Texas insurance companies paid over $10 million to resolve dog bite claims with an average value of over $16,000 per claim, according to a recent survey.
Across the country, about a third of homeowners’ insurance claims arise from dog bites. Researchers speculate that the high numbers are because about two-thirds of American households have at least one pet. Furthermore, jury verdicts tend to be high in these cases, meaning that the settlement values are high as well. The “dog bite” category also includes non-bite injuries, like those the result from animal-caused falls and serious knockdowns.
California and Ohio have the highest number of claims; insurance companies in New York and Michigan pay the most money per claim.
Every day, approximately 1,000 Americans visit the emergency room due to a dog bite; on average, the medical bills incurred in these incidents are 50 percent higher than the ones related to car crashes. Unlike some other states, Texas does not have a “dog bite law” as such, so victims have a number of options to obtain compensation for their injuries.
If the attack occurred at the owner’s residence, recovery is available using a standard negligence theory. Most victims in these incidents are licensees, which are people who are invited onto the land for a non-commercial purpose. Landowners have a duty to warn licensees of any dangerous conditions that they know about, including dangerous dogs. In addition to a prior attack, evidence of knowledge includes earlier instance of growling, loud barking, baring teeth, snapping, and lunging. Given that the Molosser breeds (pit bulls, rottweilers, boxers, and so on) are responsible for over 60 percent of dog bites but compose less than 10 percent of the canine population, the breed may also be relevant in determining knowledge.
Attacks that occur in public are often negligence per se, because of local leash laws. For example, the City of San Antonio requires dogs to be restrained and in the owner’s direct control at all times when outside a fenced yard.
In both these situations, if the owner was extremely reckless, scienter may be a possibility. Reckless or intentional disregard of a legal duty often leads to punitive damages and other large awards.
Dangerous dogs are essentially a menace. If you have suffered injuries as the result of a dog bite, it is important to take action quickly. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Braunfels, contact our office. After-hours and hospital visits are available.