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Georgia ranks high for dog bite claims

Millions of Americans suffer dog bites every year, and the problem appears to be particularly pervasive in Georgia. According to the Insurance Journal, Georgia ranked ninth in the nation in 2014 for dog bite insurance claims, with the average cost of each claim filed in the state clocking in at $31,497. In most cases, homeowner's insurance, or renter's insurance, are the types of policies that cover dog bites.

If you suffer a dog bite

A dog bite can cause minor injuries that require nominal medical treatment or leave you with wounds so severe that they call for months, or even years, of medical treatment and multiple surgeries. The good news is that you may be eligible for compensation to pay for these injuries.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that jury awards, judgments and settlements in dog bite-related cases are rising, which is due in part to the increasing costs of medical treatment and care. So much so, in fact, that the average cost associated with a dog bite claim climbed 15 percent nationwide between 2013 and 2014. It is important to note that this figure is not indicative of dog bites, alone, however. It also considers other injuries caused by dogs, such as those you may suffer if a dog causes you to fall off your bike, lose your balance, fall down a flight of stairs and so on.

To minimize your chances of suffering a dog bite, avoid approaching unfamiliar animals. Even if an animal is familiar to you, it is usually a good idea to extend a hand so the dog can sniff you first before attempting to pet it. You also want to avoid approaching a dog aggressively, especially if the dog has puppies or food in its presence.

If your dog is prone to biting

Many domesticated animals that are properly cared for are hesitant to bite, and they may do so only in certain situations, such as when they feel threatened in some way. A normally docile dog may, too, be prone to biting if he or she is protecting a home, an owner, food or puppies. Of course, if your dog bites, you (or your insurer) could be responsible for paying the bill.

To reduce the chances of your own dog biting someone, learn to recognize the signs that may come before a bite, such as growling. Avoid taking your dog to public places (and particularly those where unfamiliar children may try to approach the dog), and in severe cases, consider muzzling the dog when taking it for walks in areas where you are likely to run into other people or dogs.

Taking these steps will reduce your chances of a dog bite, but if you suffer a serious injury because of someone else's dog, you may want to consult an attorney.

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