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Our St. Louis dog bite attorneys report on the high cost of a dog bite injury.

You might not think so by looking at him, but your dog Max could suddenly be worth $32,000 to a friend, neighbor or a stranger – if the dog were to bite someone without provocation. Dog bite injuries can cost you a great deal in lawsuits and increased insurance costs.

The Insurance Information Institute says the average homeowners’ liability insurance payment for dog bite claims in the U.S. in 2014 was $32,072. In fact, dog bites and other injuries from dog attacks accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2014, costing in excess of $530 million.

Loretta Worters, a vice president with the Institute, said that the average cost of a dog bite claim nationally has surged more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, because of higher medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to dog attack victims.

Missouri doesn’t appear on the I.I.I.’s top 10 states for dog bite claims but the U.S. Postal Service says St. Louis is No. 7 on its top 30 dog attack city rankings for 2014. There were 38 dog attacks on postal workers in St. Louis in 2014, and 5,767 nationwide.

Illinois is No. 4 on the Institute’s list, with 872 dog bite claims in 2014, resulting in payments totaling $30.4 million at an average payout of $34,894. Chicago is No. 4 on the Postal Service’s list, with 45 dog attacks on postal workers in 2014.

Any dog can bite and many dog bites are not serious. But dogs can cause significant harm if they attack, bite and/or maul someone. Even the most conservative estimates of the harm inflicted by dogs cite more than 30 fatalities a year due to dog attacks. Nonfatal attacks can lead to crushing and tearing injuries that require reconstructive surgery and cause traumatic stress as well as physical scars.

Many children are attracted to dogs. Children also represent a sizable portion of dog bite victims, particularly during summer months when they may spend more time playing outdoors and are more likely to encounter roaming neighbor dogs or stray canines. Small children may approach a dog to pet it, and not recognize the animal’s warning signs of agitation or aggression until it’s too late.

Those who are badly mauled by a dog may require multiple rounds of plastic surgery to repair the damage. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says approximately 28,500 reconstructive procedures were done in 2014 to repair dog bites, which was a 6 percent increase since 2013.

In Missouri, the owner of a dog may be held strictly liable in some cases for personal injuries suffered as the result of their dog attacking someone. A dog owner may also be held liable if their dog bites without provocation a person on public property or on private property if the person was legally on the property.

It’s important to have some legal assistance if you or a family member has been seriously injured by a dog attack to ensure that your family receives full compensation that covers all current and future medical expenses and other losses.

Sansone, Sumner & Lauber can help if you or a loved one of yours has suffered a significant injury in a dog attack in Missouri, or in Illinois. We urge you to contact our offices in St. Louis to arrange a free, no-obligation legal consultation if you are facing medical bills, lost work time or other harm because of a dog attack.

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