Add this to the list of money responsibilities associated with having a dog:
The Santa Rosa, Calif., case was horrifying: A 90-pound American bulldog attacked a woman walking her own dog to a school bus stop to meet her children, biting off her nose.
The owner was sentenced to four months in jail and 100 hours of community service.
The victim, who endured several surgeries to rebuild her face, was later awarded $900,000 in a civil settlement. Her husband and children were awarded $33,000 each, for a total settlement of $1 million -- the upper limit of the dog owner's insurance policy.
Think this is one simple case and that it can't happen to you? Here are some interesting facts:
Dog bites make up one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute, and cost insurers $356 million in 2007.
The average cost of a dog-bite claim was $24,511 in 2007, the institute found. That's 11.5% more than the year before and 28% more than in 2003.
More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly a million of them need medical attention. Some die. Last year, 32 people in the U.S. were killed by dogs, according to Los Angeles attorney Kenneth Phillips, who specializes in dog-bite cases.
And here's what they say you can do to limit your liability:
- Research breeds before you buy.
- Be honest with your insurer. Not telling your insurer you own a dog is a big risk.
- Spay or neuter. Dramatically reduces the chances that a dog will bite.
- Invest in some training. A dog needs to understand its role in your family "pack." All kinds of behavioral problems can result if it doesn't.
- Take sensible precautions.
- Don't forget leashes and fences.
- Get adequate coverage. Most homeowners insurance policies come with liability coverage that tops out at $300,000. You'll probably want more [such as] a $1 million "umbrella".
Most of this was new news to me. For instance, I didn't know it was advisable to report a new dog in the family to your insurance agent. And I didn't know that dog bites happened so frequently.
I'm sure that most people don't increase their level of insurance when they get a dog (even those who get a breed more likely to attack/bite.) Anyone out there do this when you got a new dog?