Monthly Memo- June: The Claims Process, Dog Bites
The Claims Process (homeowners)
An adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer you a certain sum of money for repairs. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount. It is not the final payment.
If you’re offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later on, if you find other damage, you can “reopen” the claim and file for an additional amount. Most policies require claims to be filed within one year from the date of disaster. Check with your state insurance department.
When both the structure of your home and personal belongings are damaged, you generally receive two separate checks from your insurance company, one for each category of damage. You should also receive a separate check for additional living expenses that you incur while your home is being renovated.
Sixty-two percent of U.S. households, or 72.9 million homes, own a pet, according to a 2011 survey from by the American Pet Products Association.
Over the years, many states have passed laws with stiff penalties for owners of dogs that cause serious injuries or deaths. In about one-third of states, owners are “strictly liable” for their dogs’ behavior, while in the rest of the country they are liable only if they knew or should have known their dogs had a propensity to bite (known as the “one free bite” principle).
Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2012, costing over $489 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®. State Farm said that it paid out more than $108 million as a result of its nearly 3,670 dog bite claims in 2012, a slight decrease from the previous year. An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $29,752 in 2012, up 1.2 percent from $29,396 in 2011. From 2003 to 2012 the cost of the average dog bite claim increased by 55.3 percent. The number of claims dropped slightly to 16,459 in 2012 from 16,695 in 2011.
Dog Owners’ Liability: Dog owners are liable for injuries their pets cause if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury; if a state statute makes the owner liable, whether or not the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury; or if the injury was caused by unreasonably carelessness on the part of the owner.
There are three kinds of law that impose liability on owners:
1) A dog-bite statute: where the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation.
2) The one-bite rule: where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury—in this case, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
3) Negligence laws: where the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.
In most states, dog owners aren’t liable to trespassers who are injured by a dog. A dog owner who is legally responsible for an injury to a person or property may be responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, time off work, pain and suffering and property damage.