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U.S. Postal Service highlights problem of dog attacks

As a promoter of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the U.S. Postal Service wants to encourage people in California to take steps to keep their dogs from harming others. Insurance companies, children's organizations and animal lovers have joined the Postal Service in getting the message out about the prevalence and cost of animal attacks.

Children under the age of 14 make up one-third of animal bite victims. Often the attacking animal is the family's own dog. Mail carriers also suffer many bites. A carrier filling in for a co-worker's regular route faces the greatest risk because the carrier does not know where the unfriendly dogs are located.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the costs that arise from dog attacks have been increasing. Over the last 12 years, a 94 percent increase to $571 million has been recorded. This figure includes medical costs associated with dog bites and injuries inflicted on bicyclists that are forced to the ground by aggressive dogs. Some homeowners expect their liability coverage to compensate victims. Although their insurance often pays for claims, the consequences for the homeowners could include higher premiums or being dropped outright by an insurance carrier.

California imposes strict liability on the owners of dogs and other animals who injure people. However, other parties besides the owner could also be held financially responsible, such as property owners who failed to prevent another person's dog from injuring an invited guest. A lawsuit like this filed by an attorney for an injured victim could name the property owner as a defendant under the theory of premises liability.

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