Why Medical Bills After a Dog Bite Can Be So Costly

A recent study revealed that dog bites cost Illinois residents more than $35 million each year. Several factors contribute to the high cost of medical bills after a dog bite.

A recent study revealed that dog bites cost Illinois residents more than $35 million each year. The average cost of medical treatment after a dog bite is over $48,000.

Several factors contribute to the high cost of medical bills after a dog bite. For dog owners, the best approach to medical costs is to prevent situations in which a dog might attack a person or another animal.

Dog Bite Medical Treatment Statistics

Approximately 1,000 people in the US seek emergency room treatment for dog bites each day. Most of these injured patients are treated in emergency departments and released. About 12,480 people spend at least one night in the hospital due to dog bite injuries each year.

Dog bites are rarely fatal. Although over 350,000 injuries occur each year, only about three people in the US die each year from dog bites. Those most likely to die from severe dog attack injuries include very young children and the elderly.

Dog-related injuries are often covered by homeowners’ insurance policies. Insurers estimate they paid over $1.1 billion in dog bite claims in 2022. The average cost per claim has more than doubled between 2013 and 2022 due to rising healthcare costs and larger court awards.

Why Is Treatment for a Dog Bite So Expensive?

The average hospital stay for a dog bite costs $18,200 – nearly 50 percent more than the average hospital stay for acute injuries. Why is dog bite treatment more expensive?

  • Infection is more common. The CDC estimates that 4.5 million dog bites happen in the US each year. About 20 percent, or one in five, dog bites will result in an infection. Infections require additional medical treatment and can become life-threatening.
  • Many patients require reconstructive surgery. About 27,000 dog bite victims had reconstructive surgery in 2018 alone, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Reconstructive surgery is used to rebuild essential structures in the injured area, such as a damaged nose in a bite to the face or damaged nerves and ligaments in bites to the hand. The goal of this surgery is to restore function and minimize visible scarring.
  • Hospital admissions for dog bites are rising. Between 1993 and 2008, the number of patients admitted to the hospital for dog bite injuries increased by 86 percent. Increasing admission rates may be related to bite severity or to the need to administer intensive treatments, such as IV antibiotics, that patients cannot administer themselves at home.
  • Pediatric care can be more expensive. Children are more likely to experience dog bite injuries than adults. They are also more likely to be severely injured by a dog bite, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Children typically require care from pediatric specialists, whose intensive training and specialty can also come with a higher price tag.

Dog bite injuries are also known to cause scarring that can be medically difficult to treat. The edges of an open dog bite wound are often irregular due to tearing or ripping of the skin. Joining these edges can be difficult even for skilled surgeons, and additional treatment for scarring, pain, and loss of mobility may be required.

Prevention is the Best Medicine for Dog Bites

Physicians, veterinarians, and insurance companies tend to agree: The best way to control the high costs of dog bites is to prevent them.

Illinois’s “strict liability” dog bite law states that a dog’s owner is liable if their dog injures someone in a place that person had a legal right to be, as long as the injured person didn’t provoke the dog. Dog owners are expected to use common tools to prevent their dogs from harming people or other animals. For example:

  • Leashes. Chicago requires dogs to be on leashes except in designated areas. Many other Illinois communities also have leash laws.
  • Fences and other yard protections. Fences keep a dog in its owner’s yard, where the dog has a legal right to be. A dog run can also allow a dog to play and run without risking an encounter with someone who might be injured.
  • Dog training and awareness. While Illinois law doesn’t require dog training classes, training and constant awareness of a dog’s mood and behavior while in public can help owners spot and avoid situations where a dog might lash out.

If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, seek medical treatment immediately. Once your injuries are treated, speak to an experienced Illinois dog bite lawyer. An attorney can help you seek compensation for medical costs and other losses after an attack.

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