Illinois ranks second in the country in terms of the number of dog bite claims on homeowners’ insurance policies.
When a dog bites someone in Illinois, the law states that the owner of the animal is strictly liable for any damages that have been caused. In other words, it does not matter if the owner was negligent in the circumstances surrounding the attack, such as failing to leash the animal. When there is an injury, the owner will be expected to pay for the full amount of costs associated with it.
In many cases, the pet owner’s homeowners’ insurance will absorb the cost of the damages. A recent look at these claims illustrates how frequently these claims are filed in Illinois.
An Expensive Issue
The Insurance Information Institute released a report in May of this year that analyzed the relationship between dog attacks and insurance claims. In 2015, more than $570 million in payments went toward victims of dog bites and dog-related injuries. That accounts for more than one-third of all the homeowners’ insurance claims filed last year that cited liability.
Taking a closer look at the state-by-state breakdown, Illinois ranked second in terms of the number of claims that were filed. The state saw 931 claims that cost an average of $33,385, totaling approximately $31.1 million.
When Insurance Falls Short
Keep in mind that insurance policies have limits. Take, for example, a case in which someone suffers devastating injuries due to a dog attack and requires surgery and rehabilitation. The cost of the person’s medical care is upward of $500,000, but the insurance policy limit is only $100,000.
Further, many insurance policies limit coverage to a dog’s initial bite and no claims arising thereafter. Some policies will even refuse to cover certain dog breeds. Also, policies typically will not cover an incident associated with a vehicle. Therefore, an attack involving a dog that lunges through the window of a car to bite someone may not be covered. Auto insurance may pick up the claim, however.
In any of these cases, the owner of the animal will be held responsible for making up the difference between what the insurance company will pay and what is owed. In order to recover compensation, victims of bites in Illinois must initiate a claim within two years of the incident, according to state law.
Lastly, it must be noted that insurance companies are in the business of making money. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the provider will attempt to deny coverage or issue payments that fall short of what they should be. In this case, taking further action against the provider may become necessary.
Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Illinois.