Data recently released by homeowners' insurance provider State Farm reveals that Illinois was second only to California for the number of dog bite claims seen in 2015. Illinois pet owners and dog bite victims filed a record number of claims last year. While the number of dog bite claims fell for most states around the country, and for every other state in the top 10, they rose in Illinois.
How the USPS may be influencing dog bite trends
The exact cause of the upward trend in dog bite incidents across Illinois isn't exactly known, but some are pointing fingers at an interesting potential culprit: the United States Postal Service. There are now more USPS letter carriers on the streets than before, and they are making more package deliveries than at any point prior. Last year saw a huge increase in the number of packages handled by the USPS (an estimated rise of half a billion more over 2014), many of which were delivered directly to homes and businesses where dogs reside. Dogs often see letter carriers and other visitors as a threat to their territory, which may encourage biting, scratching and other aggressive behaviors not only towards letter carriers, but to others as well.
Breaking down the costs
State Farm reports that they paid out a record amount for dog bite claims in 2015 at $118 million. The Insurance Information Institute reports that, across the insurance industry, 15,532 dog bite claims were paid out in 2015 at a cost of $571 million. The average claim resulted in a payout of approximately $37,000.
This may seem like a large amount per claim, but simply looking at the damage that can be done by a dog puts that number in much better perspective. Dog bites that break the skin can require emergency medical treatment, which can easily result in thousands of dollars of medical bills. Bite wounds are also huge infection risks, and can lead to lengthy and expensive hospital stays. Plus, the jagged, deep tears often associated with animal attacks leave scars that require specialty care, plastic surgery or ongoing rehabilitation, all of which are painful and very costly, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for operations, hospitalizations, lost wages and pain and suffering.
The myriad costs associated with these injuries - and the fact that they could require future surgeries or ongoing treatment months or even years down the road - means that you should never settle a dog bite claim with an insurance company without first consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.