National Dog Bite Prevention Week ended Saturday, and with it comes the harsh reality of the financial impact of dog bites on Americans. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports that more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims last year went to dog bite claims, costing the industry nearly $479 million in 2011.

According to the report, insurers handled 16,292 dog bite claims last year. The average cost paid out was $29,396, up 12.3 percent from $26,166 in 2010. The I.I.I. found that the cost per claim increased by 53 percent since the Institute began keeping records in 2003.

Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa, told the USA Today that high payouts on dog bites are increasing because more people own dogs, they live closer to one another, and parents are more likely to get advanced medical care for their children after a bite. Skow added that plastic surgery is more commonplace now than it was in the past—helping drive up medical costs.

Dog bite laws vary from state to state, and understanding the legal rights in the case of a Florida dog bite is important for both the owner of the dog and the victim of the dog bite. In Florida, the owner of a dog that bites any person lawfully visiting the property of the dog owner or in a public place is liable for the injuries suffered by the dog bite victim. The dog owner may be required to reimburse the dog bite victim for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage. Due to the complexity of the laws, speaking with a Florida dog bite injury lawyer is critical.

In March, a Rottweiler chained in his neighbor’s yard mauled a 17-month-old in Jacksonville, FL. The child wandered into the yard where the dog grabbed the child and repeatedly bit him, leading to the child’s death. It is tragic cases like these that continue to drive up insurance costs for Florida residents.

Florida was the seventh top state for dog bite claims in 2011. State Farm paid out $5.1 million for 157 claims. California was the top state in numbers of dog bites, with 527 claims resulting in $20.3 million in claims. Some watching the industry fear insurers will no longer cover vicious dogs in homeowner policies or the costs will become prohibitive.

According to the I.I.I., most dogs are friendly and loving family members—but even normally docile dogs tend to bite when they are either frightened or protective of their puppies, food, or owners. The responsibility for training and controlling a dog properly ultimately lies with the owner.

Our Treasure Coast dog bite injury attorneys agree that most dogs are, in fact, “man’s best friend.” But when dogs attack and cause harm, it is important that the victim’s legal rights are protected.

Contact a Florida Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Today

If a dog has attacked you or a family member, it’s important to understand whether the dog’s owner should be held responsible for your injury. Talk to a caring Florida dog bite injury lawyer to understand your legal rights. I am attorney Philip DeBerard. I have more than three decades of experience helping Florida individuals and families recover from serious injuries caused by the negligence of others.

The law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, concentrates on helping dog bite victims in Jupiter, Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Okeechobee, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach and Palm Beach. Call 1-800-299-8878 or fill out our online contact form.