Jul 18, 2023Emergency Preparedness for Animal Shelters
Dog Bite Exposures Skyrocket
When you work with dogs, you know that dog bites are a risk. For animal shelters and other animal welfare organizations, dog bites can also be a major source of liability. In 2022, dog bite exposures and claims costs surged. It’s important to make sure you have the coverage you need.
Dog Bite Lawsuits Are Becoming More Expensive
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of dog bite claims in the U.S. decreased by 2.2% in 2022, going from 17,989 in 2021 to 17,597 in 2022. However, the average cost per claim increased by 31.7%. In 2021, the average claim cost was $49,025. In 2022, it jumped to $64,555.
Although the increase in claims costs seen in 2022 was massive, it’s part of a larger trend that’s been going on for a decade now. The Insurance Information Institute says the average cost per claim has increased by 131.7% between 2013 and 2022.
These numbers pertain to homeowners insurance claims, but the same trends are very relevant to animal welfare organizations.
The Trends Behind Rising Claim Costs
To explain the increase in claims costs, the Insurance Information Institute points to rising medical costs and larger settlements, judgments and jury awards.
According to Debt.org, the average per-day hospital cost in the U.S. is $2,883, and even common surgeries often cost more than $100,000. Even bites that aren’t severe enough to require a hospital stay or surgery can require expensive medical care. GoodRx Health says emergency room visits typically cost $2,400 to $2,600.
In addition to medical bills, a dog bite claim may involve lost work and pain and suffering. Jury awards have been rising, a trend known as social inflation, and this has been driving up the cost of lawsuits. Although several factors may be behind social inflation, the rise of third-party litigation funding is commonly recognized as a main cause. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, third-party litigation funding “is a multibillion-dollar global industry that is turning our courtrooms into casinos.”
The Impact on Animal Welfare Organizations
If a dog bites a visitor or volunteer at your shelter, you could be hit with a large lawsuit. In some cases, your organization could even be held liable for dog bites that occur after a dog has been adopted. Several recent lawsuits show how animal welfare organizations can face liability:
- According to NBC Miami, a jury awarded more than $100,000 in damages to the family of a girl who was bitten by a dog while visiting a shelter with her mother. The girl’s injuries have healed, but her mother says she continues to suffer mental anguish.
- According to the Sun Sentinel, a dog rescue group in Florida is being sued after a dog fatally mauled a volunteer. The lawsuit alleges multiple lapses, including failing to have policies in place for when animals attack, failing to properly train employees on how to respond to attacks, failing to warn volunteers that the dog was dangerous, and failing to provide protective equipment.
- According to org, a lawsuit seeking $21 million in damages was filed against the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Animal Services after a recently adopted dog attacked a woman so severely that amputation was necessary. The lawsuit alleges that the shelter knew the dog had a history of attacks but failed to disclose the information.
The Impact on Insurance
As claims costs rise, insurers are increasing rates accordingly. As a result, animal welfare programs are seeing premium increases – especially for dog bite coverage.
We understand that animal welfare organizations often operate on tight budgets, so we want to explain why these premium increases are occurring. We also want to make sure organizations understand the importance of maintaining insurance for dog bites.
As dog bite lawsuits become more expensive, animal organizations need to make sure they have adequate protection. Strong risk management practices can help prevent claims, but insurance provides an important layer of protection, and it may be the only thing that allows a shelter to survive a lawsuit.
To help ensure that animal welfare organizations have suitable protection against dog bite exposures, we offer coverage with no species or breed exclusions. Learn more.