State Farm Insurance paid $109 million in 2011
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State Farm Insurance paid $109 million for dog bite claims in 2011

Dog bites man does not get a lot of attention in the news, but it costs insurance companies hundreds of millions in claims every year.

State Farm Insurance, one of the nation’s largest home insurers, paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide last year, spokesman Eddie Martinez said Wednesday. In 2010, there were about 3,500 claims and $90 million in payouts.

The Insurance Information Institute estimated that nearly $479 million in dog bite claims were paid by all insurance companies in 2011, spokeswoman Loretta Worters said. In 2010, it was $413 million.

It’s no surprise that California – home to more dogs and people than any other state – led the way in 2011.

Martinez says 527 claims were filed in California and victims received $20.3 million, a jump of 31 percent over 2010.

State Farm is still working to determine reasons for the spike, Martinez said.

About 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year and more than half of the victims are children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. About 800,000 people seek medical attention for the bites. Less than half of those people require treatment and about 16 die, the agency said.

After children ages 5 to 9 years old, the agency said that seniors represent the largest group at risk, followed by letter carriers.

Nationally, about 5,600 U.S. Postal Service letter carriers were attacked by dogs each of the last two years, said Los Angeles spokesman Richard Maher.

In California, a carrier was attacked in March and died of complications four days later after she suffered a stroke likely caused by trauma, Maher said.

Los Angeles carriers recorded the most bites with 83; San Diego was second with 68; followed by Houston at 47; and Cleveland at 44.

Medical expenses from dog attacks cost the Postal Service just over $1 million last year, officials said.

The third full week each May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week and State Farm, the U.S. Postal Service, the American Veterinary Medical Association and CDCP release dog bite statistics and launch campaigns to promote dog safety.

Despite the large number of attacks on letter carriers, the Postal Service decided to focus on children for their campaign because a child is 900 times more likely to be attacked than a letter carrier, Maher said.

Heredity, training, socialization, health, and the behavior of humans around it can all contribute to a dog’s tendency to bite, Martinez said.

The ASPCA predicts half of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before 12. The majority of bites will be from the family dog or the dog of a neighbor or friend.
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