Dog related injury claims can take a "bite" out of wallets

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COLUMBIA - Missouri was in the top third nationwide in dog-related injury claims, according to State Farm Insurance.

State Farm said it paid out a record $118 million nationally in dog-related injury claims in 2015.

Costs in Missouri were $500,000 more in Missouri in 2014 compared to last year, and the state moved from 13 to 17 among dog bite incidents per state.

"In Missouri, State Farm paid out over $2 million in dog bite injuries, so it's an important issue," spokesman Jim Camoriano said. "One thing to keep in mind is your home owner's policy typically has a liability portion of it that will protect you if your dog does bite somebody. It's important to visit with your insurance agent to make sure what kind of coverage you have."

Camoriano said it's important for people to know what kind of coverage they have in the event of a dog bite on their property.

He said dog bites often don't come quickly to mind when thinking about the the cost of insurance.

"When you talk about auto claims, homeowners claims, a lot of people don't realize that dog bite claims are a part of that. When you have an animal and someone comes to your house and wants to visit, that animal is a part of your family too."

Camoriano said footing the bill for a dog bite can be more expensive than many would think.

"It can be an expensive issue for customers and insurance companies," Camoriano said. "The average claim at State Farm for a dog bite is over $37,000 because of rising health care costs, emergency medical treatment and also legal expenses following a lawsuit."

National Dog Bite Prevention Week begins on May 15, and Camoriano said it is a topic that really deserves attention.

"Most of the victims of dog bites are children," Camoriano said. "So we really encourage parents to tell their kids and teach their kids to ask permission first from the dog owner before they just run up and pet the dog."

The United States Postal Workers are another group that see a large amount of dog bite cases. USPS said 6,549 employees were bitten by dogs in 2015, with Kansas City and Missouri both in the top 15 cities where incidents occurred.

Camoriano said there are some things dogs owners can do to better teach their dogs not to bite.

"Socialization early is very important," Camoriano said. "If you have a puppy, it's very important to expose that young dog to a lot of people so it learns how to handle itself and get s familiar with people in your life and people who approach it."