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LEGAL/FINANCIAL

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Dogs Take a Huge Bite of Homeowner Liability Claims

New York State

Dog Bite Claims
April 12, 2017

“My dog doesn’t bite.”

Don’t believe those four innocent words. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claims paid out in 2016 – a staggering $600 million – according to the New York-based Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the insurer State Farm.

New York State had the highest average cost per claim, at $55, 671, well above the national average of $33,230. The number of dog-bite claims nationwide increased to 18,123 last year, an 18 percent increase over 2015. A total of $58 million in claims was paid in New York State, second only to California’s $76.3 million. Which leads to an urgent question: is your co-op or condo board adequately insured?

“We’re seeing a great increase in losses,” says Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I. “The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 70 percent from 2003 to 2016, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards given to plaintiffs.”

Worters offers some advice to co-op and condo boards. “The best advice is to check what kind of liability coverage you have,” she says. “Whether you’re a co-op or condo, you want to make sure you have adequate coverage. We recommend underlying coverage of about $300,000 minimum. Then you should add an umbrella policy, which costs about $50 a year per million dollars in added coverage. Boards should have at least $1 million in coverage.”

Ed Mackoul, president of Mackoul & Associates, a Long Island-based insurance brokerage, admits he was surprised to learn that dog bites account for such a huge chunk of liability claim payouts. “I knew it was top five,” he says, “but I didn’t know it was number one.”

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