Man’s best friend doesn’t always act so friendly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S., and in 2019 the average cost per claim jumped by 14.7%.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost $796.8 million in liability claims in 2019, representing more than one-third of homeowner liability claims. California led the nation with 2,396 claims, more than twice the number in fourth-ranked New York, at 893. But the Empire State had a higher average cost per claim, at just under $56,000.
Apparently, dog-bite claims are yet another area where New York exceeds the national average ($44,760 for 2019).
The average cost per claim nationally has risen 134% from 2003 to 2019, according to the III. They attribute the increase to increased medical costs, as well as larger settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs.
Dog-Related Injury Implications for Landlords
Liability concerns may convince some landlords to adopt either a no-pets policy or a very restrictive pet policy. Legal website Nolo says that it’s rare for a landlord to be found liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. Simply renting to a tenant with a dog does not make the landlord legally responsible for the pet’s actions.
Generally speaking, landlord liability for dog-related injuries depends on one of the following conditions:
- Failure to remove a dog that is known to be dangerous
- Control over the dog, such as agreeing to pet-sit in the owner’s absence
To know that a dog poses a danger, the landlord must know that it previously threatened or injured someone. Knowing that a tenant chains a dog that barks when approached, for instance, does not necessarily transfer liability to a landlord. Under such circumstances, a New York court did not hold a landlord liable for an injury caused by a tenant’s dog.
Someone who cares for or otherwise exercises control over a dog often has the same liability as the legal owner. Even landlords who love animals should think twice about special requests concerning pets. (Take this suggestion in the same spirit as the one about not loaning equipment to contractors.)
Whether you have a pet-free or pet-friendly policy, call our office at 877-576-5200. Make sure your commercial insurance policy has the right liability protection.