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Spike Recorded in California Dog Bite Claims

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One of the largest home insurance companies in the country has recorded a spike in California dog bite claims. State Farm recently indicated that the number of claims in the state increased by 31 percent in 2011, with the insurer paying out $20.3 million on 527 claims, reported the Los Angeles Daily News.

“In California, landowners may be held liable for the expense of treating a dog bite victim’s injuries and recovery,” explained California personal injury lawyer James Ballidis, “especially if they knew or should have known that the animal posed a threat to others.”

After a dog attack, victims are often able to seek compensation for their injury or loss through the homeowner’s insurance policy. While California surpassed other states in the amount paid out in dog bite claims in 2011, increases were also recorded on a national level: the total paid out for such claims by all insurers rose from $413 million in 2010 to $479 million in 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Although the Daily News article cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics on the annual incidence of dog bites-4.7 million people bitten every year, 800,000 of whom seek medical attention-the newspaper did not provide a reason for the upward trend in claims.

In addition to claims through the dog owner’s home insurance, victims in California may also pursue claims based on the legal theories of negligence and of strict liability. In order to successfully prove a negligence claim, the plaintiff would need to provide evidence that the owner acted in a way that an ordinary person would not have and that his or her actions directly led to the attack and injury; for example, the owner failed to properly restrain or house the dog or trained it to behave aggressively. In the case of strict liability, the plaintiff would have to show that the owner violated Section 3342 of the California Civil Code by keeping or controlling a dog that was unusually aggressive and that the owner knew or should have known about this tendency.

Given the number of dog bites in California and throughout the country, especially among children, parents should take some time during National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 17-23) to discuss methods of avoiding attacks and the painful injuries associated with them.

Additional information on dog bites and the state laws concerning them is available to the public free of charge.

If you would like to request a free book or article, or to speak with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 866-981-5596.

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