According to a recent report from State Farm insurance, Californians are the most likely individuals to experience dog bites when compared to residents of other states. Based on data from the Information Insurance Institute (III), these dog bite injuries cost homeowners’ insurers a total of $686 million last year, contributing to higher premiums for homeowners.
Two recent dog bite incidents in California illustrate the impact that dog bites have, not only on homeowners’ insurance policies, but also to the victims that suffer these attacks. In both of these incidents, the same dog, dog owner, and homeowner insurance policy were involved.
The dog, a Belgian Malinois known to have a bite force of more than 195 psi, attacked two separate women, Laurie Rice and Diana Fink, neither of whom had provoked the dog to attack. As a result of the dog owner’s inability to control his dog, his homeowner insurance policy paid $2,000,000 in settlements, providing $1,000,000 to each of the two women injured.
In addition, the dog owner, George A. Guevara, was charged with criminal felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon (the dog), of brandishing a weapon, and of battery. Guevara, who had previous convictions related to rolling back the odometers on vehicles at his car dealership, had not intended for the dog to attack Fink, but lost control of the dog when he attempted to have the dog assault a bar patron with whom he had had a fight. As a result of these attacks, Guevara was convicted of the felony charge of brandishing the dog as a weapon and battery, and the dog was later destroyed. Fink, a bartender and a volunteer helping veterans and the homeless, had both her livelihood and volunteer activities impacted by the bite and attack to her forearm.
According to both victims, represented by Dunnion Law, a Monterey-based firm that has recovered seven-figure settlements for dog bite victims, and recovered one of California’s largest dog attack settlements ($8 million), neither of them had expected the dog attack, nor the end result that Dunnion Law obtained.
“The misuse of this dog has permanently affected these women, leaving them with both physical and psychological scars that will never fully heal’, said Connell Dunnion, CEO and owner of Dunnion Law. “Unfortunately, the dog owner put others at risk, and the dog, the insurers, and the victims, in particular, are left to deal with the final consequences.”
As incidents of dog bites continue to increase in California, it is important for dog owners to train their pets responsibly, and for victims to learn about the legal options available to them when they’ve been bitten.