Recent legislation in New York state has made it illegal for insurance companies to refuse insurance coverage or charge higher premiums to homeowners based on the breeds of their dogs. This means that thousands of owners of dog breeds such as pit bull terriers, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, and Rottweilers may access homeowner’s insurance with greater ease.
Nature vs. Nurture
The news of the change in law has been welcomed by pet owners and dog advocates who have long argued that some breeds have been unfairly maligned by the media as being inherently dangerous. Many believe that a dog’s dangerous behavior is learned rather than inherited genetically and that dogs such as pit bulls are naturally very affectionate.
Furthermore, the Animal Protective Foundation in Glenville, NY, estimates that over half the dogs that enter their shelter are pit bull mixes. Partly due to the restrictive insurance policies, these animals have tended to stay in shelters longer than other breeds because there is lower demand for them.
However, others note that pit bulls account for a very high percentage of dangerous dog bites and fatal maulings across the United States. Many of these attacks involve serious injuries in the area of the head and neck.
Individual Dangerous Dogs
While the law prohibits homeowners’ insurers from making decisions based solely on the breed of the dog, there is a specific exception in the law if the individual dog is designated as “dangerous” under New York Agriculture and Markets Law § 123. However, the designation of a dog as “dangerous” requires either that:
- The dog has previously attacked a person, a pet, or a farm animal; or
- The dog poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.
Additionally, there are some dogs that have been specifically bred for their aggressive and dangerous tendencies and therefore pose a risk of injury. However, the updated law does not address the potential dangers of this population of dogs.
The Cost of Dog Bites
Dog bites can have serious consequences for those who are injured by them. These can include:
- Infections such as rabies
- Bodily injuries, such as lacerations, nerve damage, finger amputations, and broken bones
- Psychological harm such as anxiety and PTSD
Those with particularly grave injuries require emergency medical treatment, reconstructive surgery, and ongoing care for their physical and psychological health. Furthermore, their injuries often mean that they are temporarily or permanently unable to work to support themselves financially.
In addition to the risks to health and life that serious dog bites present, they also come with hefty price tags. Insurers pay out more than $850 million annually in claims related to dog bite injuries, and this cost does not include bites from pit bulls.
Contact an Experienced New York Dog Bite Attorney
The laws surrounding whether a dog bite victim can claim compensation are complicated in New York. This is why it is important that you have an experienced New York dog bite injury attorney on your side.
The seasoned lawyers at The Mandel Law Firm have the skills and knowledge necessary to help you determine whether the dog bite injuries you have suffered may qualify you for a claim for financial compensation under New York state law. If we believe you are eligible to file a claim for compensation, we will fight for your best interests every step of the way. Contact us online or call us at (646) 770-3868 and let us get to work for you.