A report by the U.S.-based Insurance Information Institute shows close to one-third of liability claims paid in 2009 were for dog bites.


According to the Insurance Information Institute, payouts for dog bite claims have risen by 30 per cent in the past six years. ((IStock))

It also found that the cost of claims as well as payouts have increased from 2008. The average payout in 2009, according to the institute, was $24,840 US.

In the U.S., dog bite claims amounted to $412 million in 2009, a rise of 6.4 per cent from 2008.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada doesn't track dog bite statistics. However, a spokesman for the bureau suggests that on a proportional basis, Canadian insurance companies would be facing a similar situation.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, dogs bite nearly 4.7 million people in the U.S. each year, and nearly 900,000, half of them children, require medical attention.

The rate of dog bite injuries is highest for children five to nine years old. Injury rates are higher for boys than girls. More than half of the bites happen on the dog owner's property.

The insurance institute notes that most insurance policies cover liability for dog bites to a certain limit. However, once a dog has bitten someone, an insurance company may charge a higher premium or exclude the dog from its coverage.

It says the best way to avoid personal liability is to prevent a dog from biting someone in the first place.