I have recently received a good bit of heated interest in my last two posts (here and here) on the Maryland Court of Appeals opinion in Tracey v. Solesky, in which the court held that in dog bite cases involving a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull mix, plaintiff no longer needs to prove that the dog in particular, or pit bulls in general, are dangerous.
There is no question that dog bite claims make up their fair share of serious personal injury claims. Here are some statistics:
- The insurance industry pays more than $1 billion in dog-bite claims each year. State Farm, the insurance company in Solesky, paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide in 2011. In 2010, State Farm had approximately 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.
- The CDC says that approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Over half of the victims are children. Most of these bites are not serious. But approximately 800,000 people seek medical attention for the bites each year. Sixteen people a year die from dog bites. It has to be said: most of these are from pit bulls. Still, at least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the last 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S.
- Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered.
- The median (not average) dog bite verdict in Maryland over the last 23 years is $24,600.
- At particular risk for dog bites are (1) children ages 5 to 9 years old, (2) seniors, and (3) postmen. Children are the biggest risk. Kids are 900 times more likely to be attacked than a letter carrier.
- State Farm’s average cost per dog bite nationally in 2011 was $28,799.
- Approximately one-fourth of dog bite claims are like Solesky in that they involve unrestrained dogs off of their owners’ property. I think these are the dog bite injuries that most concern the general public.
One thing I have gathered from the comments to my blog post, and my reading more about this issue, is that dog lovers really support dog bite victims and seem to largely support strict liability in dog bite cases. What dog lovers almost universally seem to detest is the discriminating against pit bulls as the court does in Tracey v. Solesky.