Few dog owners believe their dog would actually bite someone but, unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case. “All dogs have the potential to bite, but for most, biting is a last resort,” said canine expert Victoria Stilwell. Biting might be the last resort, yet many dogs seem to resort to it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs every year. [ii]
I love dogs. Since Americans own ninety million dogs, it’s clear that a lot of us feel the same way. That’s why the astounding number of people bitten is a saddening statistic for dog lovers.
Additional statistics from the CDC make the number of dog bites all the worst. “Children are more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog, and when they are, the injuries can be more severe. Half of dog bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us.” It’s hard to absorb the information that more than half of all people bitten by dogs every year are bitten by their own dogs.
Our family has two wonderful dogs, a lab and a spaniel both of whom love everyone. They have never bitten anyone including children who pull their tails. They are so good-natured they rarely bark even if they hear a noise late at night. (I know, great water dogs!) Instead, they bound into our bedroom, give me a certain look which means, Phil, get up and find out what made that noise, then hide under the bed.
Since Cannon Financial is in the wealth management training business, the following question naturally occurred to me: do people have liability if their dogs bite someone? Yes, they do, and the liability can be significant since many dog bites are very serious. Every year an estimated 316,000 emergency room visits involve a dog bite, a number equal to the population of St. Louis. [iv]
“Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2017, costing almost $700 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States. [v]
Let’s pause and think about this for a minute. One-third of homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2017 were because of dog bites? Yes. Said the Insurance Information Institute, “…the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased to 18,522 in 2017, compared to 18,122 in 2016 – a 2.2 percent increase. The average cost per claim increased by 11.5 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $37,051 in 2017, compared with $33,230 in 2016.” [vi]
If these figures hadn’t come from an official insurance organization, I would have a hard time believing them. So ask your clients if they own dogs. If so, you should follow-up and ask them this question: does the homeowner's policy on each of their homes, not just their principal residence, provide liability insurance against dog bite claims? What is the policy limit?
We feel we should say again that your HNW/UHNW clients need to have an umbrella liability policy. A huge personal injury judgment could be handed down against them if one of your clients owns a dog which puts someone in the hospital or even kills someone. One the appalling statistics I discovered in my research is dogs killed thirty-nine people in the U.S. in 2017, which isn’t unusual. This is the approximately the number of people killed by dogs every year.
We can’t repeat the following advice enough. Attorneys don’t sue people who have a lot of liability insurance. They sue people who have a lot of money. As an advisor to wealthy clients, you should ensure your clients are aware and vigilant of possible liabilities they face. It’s very sad, but unfortunately, we all need to understand that many dogs are not man’s best friend.
Copyright ©2018 Cannon Financial Institute - All Rights Reserved
Subscribe to Cannon Insights at http://www.cannonfinancial.com/newsletter/subscribe
Contributing Writer: Subject Matter Expert Charles McCain