The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that the dog population in the United States reached approximately 70 million in 2011. This means that over 35% of the U.S. population has a dog. Unfortunately, this also leads to a high incidence of dog bites and dog attacks.
Indeed, a report released by State Farm on May 15, 2013, revealed that there are approximately 4.7 million dog bite victims each year. Dog bites are not only a serious health and safety issue that can cause injury and even death, but dog bites can also cost dog owners, insurance companies, and the nation a great deal of money. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2012, insurers across the country paid nearly $489 million in dog bite claims.
At the same time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 800,000 Americans seek medical attention annually for dog bites. Of those injuries, nearly half require emergency room treatment. According to Prevent the Bite, a nonprofit organization devoted to dog bite prevention, many of those injuries are to children. The organization reports that from 2001 to 2011, dog bites were the ninth leading cause of nonfatal unintentional injury to children ages 5 to 9 (512,638) and tenth for children ages 10-14 (412,895).
In 2012, State Farm alone paid about $108 million in dog bite claims in 2012. Although dog bite claims were down by 2.1% in 2012 from 2011, Texas (along with three other states on State Farm’s Top 10 states for dog bite claims–Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia) reported more claims. Notably, according to the report, Texas ranked number three in the United States for State Farm dog bite claims, behind only California and Illinois. Specifically, 236 claims were made in Texas alone, costing State Farm an estimated $4.3 million.
Summer can be the most dangerous time of the year for dog bites as kids, neighbors, friends, relatives and pets interact more frequently. The National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition and the CDC provide various tips to prevent dog bites, including:
1. Do not leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
2. Never put your dog in a position where it feels threatened.
3. Put your dog on a leash in public.
4. Do not play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
5. Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
6. Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
Although Texas does not have a dog bite statute, it adheres to the “one bite rule,” meaning that if a dog bites and injures someone -and has never done so before–the owner is not liable for those injuries. However, Texas courts have found that an owner of a non-vicious animal can be subject to liability for his or her negligent handling of an animal. Essentially, this means that if a plaintiff can prove the dog owner failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent the dog from injuring others, a dog bite victim can recover compensation even without proving that the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to.
Additionally, despite the “one bite rule,” Texas state law requires that every animal bite or scratch must be reported. In San Antonio, these animal bites can be reported to Animal Care Services, the division responsible for protecting the health and safety of both citizens and their pets.
As revealed above, dog bites can be both costly and lead to serious injury. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Carabin and Shaw have experience representing the victims of dog bites and attacks. If you believe you have suffered economic harm or personal injury as a result of a dog bite, contact the experienced San Antonio injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw today.
Animal Care Services, The Official Website of the City of San Antonio
Dog bite claims fall, except for mail carriers, by Oliver St. John, USA TODAY
Dog Bite: Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
State Farm Releases Annual Top 10 States for Dog Bite Claims, Yahoo! Finance