Insurers’ costs for dog bites and other attacks climbed last year as medical costs rose amid confrontations with vulnerable victims such as kids and seniors.
The average cost per claim increased to $32,072 in 2014 from $27,862 a year earlier, according to a report Thursday from the Insurance Information Institute, a U.S. industry group, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
Dog-related injuries cost the industry about $531 million last year, accounting for more than a third of insurers’ expenses for homeowners liability. Larger awards in court cases contributed to the increase, as did the cost of treating the wounds.
“The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not simply to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, et cetera, all of which can result in fractures and other blunt-force trauma injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses,” the institute said in its statement.
California, the most populous state, had the largest number of claims, followed by Ohio. New York had the highest average cost per attack, at $56,628. The total number of dog-related injury claims in the U.S. fell 4.7 percent to 16,550.
Human shortcomings, such as poor training and irresponsible ownership, can fuel attacks, according to the institute. The group and Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm, the largest U.S. home insurer, urge adults to discourage children from disturbing dogs that are sleeping or eating. Also, people should avoid eye contact with dogs that seem threatening.
The U.S. Postal Service reported that 5,767 employees were attacked by dogs in 2014. Los Angeles had the most attacks, with 74, while Houston was second with 62, USPS said in a separate statement tied to National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
“If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door,” the USPS said. “Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers.”