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California dogs lead national pack of biters

Posted on in Premises Liability

California is in the unenviable position of ranking at the top of a troubling list. The number of insurance claims for dog bites was higher in the state of California last year than anywhere else in the country. Most victims of these bites are young kids, elderly adults and postal workers carrying satchels of mail.

More than half of the victims of the estimated 4.7 million dog bites recorded each year are children. Kids ages 5 to 9 years old are most vulnerable; they are 900 times more likely than a letter carrier to get bitten. It is estimated that half of all kids will suffer a dog bite by age 12.

The next most likely to be attacked are the elderly. As for postal workers, around 5,600 individuals were bitten in the United States last year. Most of the attacks were in Los Angeles and San Diego, with 83 and 68 dog bite incidents, respectively. An average of 16 people die each year as the result of a dog attack. In March, a California letter carrier was among them.

Slightly less than 50 percent of the 800,000 people who seek medical assistance for a dog bite end up requiring treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the attacks come from dogs that the victims know, either a family pet or a dog that belongs to a friend or neighbor.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurers fielded 527 claims in California last year and paid more than $20 million to resolve them, a 30 percent jump from 2010. Insurance companies paid $479 million for dog bite claims in 2011.

This month commemorates National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Federal health officials, veterinarians and the U.S. Postal Service are disseminating information to teach children and their families about dog behavior and ways to avoid becoming a victim of a dog attack.

Source: USA Today, "State Farm pays $109 million for dog bite claims," Damian Dovarganes, May 17, 2012

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