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Did You Know?

Colorado is in the
top 10 states with catastrophe-related homeowners insurance claims.

Dog Bites

4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S. “The 2.2 percent decrease in claims for dog bites and dog-related injury claims in 2022 underscores the progress of educating dog owners to take responsibility for their beloved pets,” stated Janet Ruiz, Director, Strategic Communications, Triple-I. “Unfortunately, the total cost of these claims increased by 28 percent in 2022 to $1.13 billion, with an average cost per claim rising by 32 percent, to $64,555.”

The number of dog-related injury claims nationwide dropped to 17,597 in 2022, having stood at 17,989 in 2021.  The cost of 2021’s U.S. insurance claims for this type of incident totaled $882 million and the average cost per claim in that year was $49,025.

More than a third of the nation’s dog-related injury claims in 2022 were filed in five states, the Triple-I and State Farm estimate. California (1,954 claims), Florida (1,331), Texas (1,017), New York (969), and Michigan (905) topped the list, in that order.  The Top 10 list for last year can be found here.

Dog bites and other dog-related injuries, such as dogs knocking down children, cyclists, and the elderly, accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2021. Thus, the severity of injury that can occur from dog attacks, including potentially fatal injuries from larger breeds, is of significant concern to insurers due to the large medical bills and costly litigation that often follows.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm® about 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S., with associated liability claims totaling $882 million in 2021 — an increase of 44% in the last decade (2021 vs 2012) and 172% since 2003.  According to an analysis of homeowners insurance data by the III, based on 17,989 dog bite claims nationwide in 2021, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $49,025.  Since 2003, the number of dog bite claims have not climbed significantly, however, the average cost per claim nationally has risen 156 percent due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are trending upwards.

Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2021 , according to III and State Farm®. Thus, the extent of injury, including potentially fatal injuries from larger breeds is of significant concern to insurers due to the large medical bills and costly litigation that often follows.  Insurers charge rates according to risk, and when a risk is deemed too costly, insurers may make some risks ineligible or impose a higher rate for the risk to keep overall costs and in turn premiums reasonable and fair for all policyholders.  Some insurers have publicly reported that they will not insure consumers who own certain breeds of dogs, but not all insurers approach the issue of underwriting dog bite liability risk in the same manner. Depending on the insurer’s individual loss experience and underwriting practices, some insurers may impose restrictions upon specific breeds of dogs, while others may accept the risk with a corresponding surcharge.  Further, household pet restrictions under homeowner’s insurance policies are generally not limited to dog breeds considered high risk.  Insurance contracts often similarly contain exclusions for other exotic animals deemed high risk, including, but not limited to, tigers, monkeys, and venomous or poisonous animals which may be kept as pets. 

Does my insurance cover dog bites?

A dog owner's liability if their pet injures a person may vary according to state law. Some dog-bite laws make the owner liable for any injury a dog causes without provocation. Others make the owner liable if the dog has previously caused injury, implying that the pet is potentially dangerous (often called a "one-bite" rule). Negligence laws come into play if the owner does not exercise reasonable care in controlling his or her dog. In most states, dog owners are not liable if the injured person is trespassing on the owner's property. Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability, provided the dog owner informs the insurance company of a pet when buying a policy. Many policies provide up to $100,000-$300,000 in liability. Check with your agent or company to make sure your policy covers dog bites.

Does the kind of dog I have affect my insurance?

Some companies consider the history of the dog, i.e. whether this particular dog ever bitten before. Even in the first incident however, the insurance company will look at what responsibility the dog owner had in the accident. For example, insurance companies expect dog owners to be in compliance with all local ordinances. This means meeting local regulations such as leash laws and fencing height requirements. Some municipalities have even outlawed certain breeds of dogs.

Some insurance companies will not sell you a homeowners policy if you own a breed of dog on their exclusionary list, which is based on historical behaviors of certain breeds. The list of dogs vary by company, so it's good to have that information from your agent or company representative before making a final decision on the type of dog you want. Even if your insurance coverage isn't dropped, premiums could go up if the dog is considered to be at high risk for aggressive behavior by the insurance company. In some cases, an insurer may require you to sign a liability waiver for dog bites.

Colorado's Dog Bite Law

Colorado passed a law in April 2004 (HB04-1279) making dog owners liable for any serious bodily injury their dogs cause another person, regardless of the dog's history and likelihood of being vicious.

Dog Bite Prevention Tips

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Association recommends the following steps to help prevent your dog from biting:

  • Have your dog spayed or neutered. Studies show that dogs that aren't sterilized are three times more likely to bite than sterilized dogs.

  • Socialize your dog so that it knows how to act with other people and animals.

  • Play non-aggressive games with your dog such as "go fetch." Playing aggressive games like "tug of war" can encourage inappropriate behavior.

  • Avoid exposing your dog to situations in which you are unsure what the dog's response will be.

  • Many homeowners are installing invisible fences. These may keep the dogs in, but they don't keep children out. Young children walking by may be attracted. Consideration should be given to this when deciding the type and height of the fence around your yard.

  • Dogs and their owners should get training by a professional dog trainer so that the owner can optimize control of the dog if a difficult situation should arise.

  • In choosing your dog, measure its personality against the family's personality with whom it will be living. For example, a family with young children should look for a dog that can tolerate lots of noise and commotion.

  • Never leave your dog unattended in an open yard or public area.  A child may be approaching a dog with the intention of hugging it, but if the dog perceives a threat it will bite.

  • Introduce your dog slowly to new situations and people.

  • Know your dog. Don't put it in situations that make it feel overexcited or on guard.

  • Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all shots.

  • If your dog bites or snaps at anyone, call your veterinarian immediately.

  • Be particularly watchful in close situations such as in a car. Keep the dog away from people strange to the dog. Make sure there is someone who can control the dog other than the driver. There are devices that will make traveling with your dog safer for both of you; check in local pet stores.

Useful Links

The following American Veterinary Medical Association resources can help you learn more about dog bite prevention:

What you should know about dog bite prevention
This informative brochure offers tips on how to avoid being bitten, as well as what to do if you are bitten by a dog. It also addresses what you need to do if your dog bites someone. General Prevention Information from AVMA

The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD
This innovative dog bite prevention program is designed to help parents and children safely interact with dogs both inside and outside their home. The program is geared toward children from 3 to 6 years old. It's the only dog bite educational tool scientifically proven to help young children learn behaviors that can keep them safe.

What you should know about rabies
Rabies is a deadly disease that is transmitted to people through a bite. It is transmitted through the rabid animal's saliva. Rabies vaccinations for dogs are an excellent defense against this disease, as many times families are exposed to rabies after an unvaccinated pet dog is bitten by a rabid wild animal. This brochure educates on how to prevent rabies.

Articles about Preventing Dog Bites


Additional Information