Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D. CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Dog bite statistics for USPS & State Farm 2021


Key takeaways

  • National Dog Bite Prevention week happens annually in June. This event is promoted by the USPS and State Farm insurance.
  • Dog bite attacks represent a serious occupational hazard for USPS delivery workers. A USPS delivery person was killed by a pack of five dogs in Florida in 2022.
  • Homeowners who have prior knowledge of the dangerous propensities in their dog might be sued for punitive damages if their dog attacks and seriously injures a postal worker.
  • Most dog bites happen in California. In California, State Farm paid $23 million to dog bite victims in 2021.

National dog bite prevention week happens in the United States in June of every year. This week was created and is promoted by the United States Postal Service in coordination with State Farm Insurance. Obviously, this week was created by State Farm and the USPS to educate dog owners about the need for dog bite safety, with particular reference to USPS letter carriers. The theme of the 2021 campaign was named “The USPS delivers for America – Deliver for us by restraining your dog.”

Dog bite USPS
Caution is needed when postal workers deliver mail to homes with territorial aggressive dogs.

Granted, the concern for dog bite safety is extremely important. People are killed by dogs and frequently sustained serious injury, both psychological  in the form of PTSD and physically in the form of embarrassing facial deformities.

State Farm’s and the USPS efforts should be commended for this educational effort to reduce the frequency of dog bites. Nevertheless, I can’t ignore the fact that each of these organizations gain financially from publicizing this special week. Namely, for State Farm it lessens the likelihood of homeowners submitting claims through their homeowners insurance.[1]Homeowners should be aware that even if they have insurance which covers dog bites, their carrier may not be willing to pay the demand of the plaintiff but instead choose to litigate the matter at … Continue reading. For USPS it protects their carriers from dog bite attack. This in turn avoids lost productivity for employees and the costs associated with employee disability.

Dog bite statistics for Postal Workers

Here are the highlights from the 2021 dog bite statistics regarding dog attacks on postal workers:

  • More than 5,400 postal employees nationwide were attacked by dogs in the United States 2021
  • The top 10 dog bite states were as follows: California with 656 reported dog bite attacks on postal workers followed by, Texas (368), Ohio (359) Pennsylvania (281), Michigan (244), New York (239) Illinois (226) Florida (201) Washington (139) and Kentucky (123).

Total State Farm dog bite claims and payouts for 2021

  • #1 California: 388 claims, $23 million in payouts
  • #2  Illinois: 290 claims, $16.6 million in payouts
  • #3  Ohio: 132 claims, $6 million in payouts
  • #4  Michigan: 170 claims, 8.3 million in payouts
  • #5  Pennsylvania: 154 claims, 7.4 million in payouts
  • #6  Texas: 137 claims, 5.1 million in payouts
  • #7  New York: 121 claims, 9.5 million in payouts
  • #8  Minnesota: 108 claims, 3.4 million in payouts
  • #9  Georgia: 108 claims, 3.3 million in payouts
  • #10 Arizona: 105 claims, 4.1 million in payouts

Totals for all claims nationwide and payouts were as follows:

  • 3260 total claims
  • $161.7 million in payouts
  • $49,612 average payout per claim

How effective is National Dog Bite Prevention Week?

2021 statistics are consistent with statistics from previous years. Given this, one’s wonders how effective USPS/State Farm’s promotional campaign is in lessening dog bites both to postal carriers and the general public. Moreover, epidemiological studies in the United States have consistently estimate that about 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually. [2]One study Gilchrist, J. et. al. Dog bites-still a problem? Injury Prevention, 2008 Vol. 14, pp. 296-301 found that the frequency with which children were bitten by dogs  decreased significantly … Continue reading.

Poster worker killed in Florida by a pack of five dogs

This tragic incident happened when a pack of five dogs escaped from the owner’s property by climbing on rocks to scale a fence.  The incident happened in  a rural part of northern Florida, Putnam County. The victim, 61-year-old lady, was forced to leave her vehicle because it had broken down.  Neighbors came to her aid but the attack was difficult to stop. The postal worker died three days later in hospital. Read more.

Irresponsible dog owners and landlords can be sued

People who keep large muscular dogs possessing inherent territorial protective tendencies, such as some pit bull type dogs, some mastiff-type dogs and some German shepherds, need to manage their dogs with caution and responsibility. This is particularly true if the dog has a history of biting or threatening people or if they had received complaints about the dog. For example, if owners and landlords  – previously warned or who have knowledge about the potential danger of the dog – continue to act recklessly with regard to the manner in which the dog is managed, then they could sued and this might also include being sued for punitive damages. [3]Obviously, this is of concern for insurance carriers like State Farm, given that they pay out millions of dollars annually to settle dog bite claims.

Steps homeowners can take to promote dog bite safety are discussed elsewhere on this website

Also see:

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Richard Polsky, Ph.D. is a dog bite expert from California. He provides expert witness services to attorneys throughout the USA.

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Footnotes

Footnotes
1Homeowners should be aware that even if they have insurance which covers dog bites, their carrier may not be willing to pay the demand of the plaintiff but instead choose to litigate the matter at trial. This choice can make the insured liable for all damages above the settlement amount previously offered to the plaintiff
2One study Gilchrist, J. et. al. Dog bites-still a problem? Injury Prevention, 2008 Vol. 14, pp. 296-301 found that the frequency with which children were bitten by dogs  decreased significantly during the years 2001-2003. Hence, there is some evidence that dog bite educational prevention programs might reduce the frequency of  dog bites in children
3Obviously, this is of concern for insurance carriers like State Farm, given that they pay out millions of dollars annually to settle dog bite claims.