As Internet shopping grows and consumers increasingly demand seven-day delivery and groceries on their doorstep, more postal carriers, cable installers, meter readers, and delivery people of all types are being confronted by dogs.
Dog attacks on postal workers totaled 6,755 in 2020, the highest number in three decades, the U.S. Postal Service reported. This was up 206 from 2019, a year in which attacks jumped 14 percent. Attacks were reported highest in Los Angeles, CA followed by Houston, TX, Cleveland, OH, San Diego, CA, and Louisville, KY.
On a typical 500-household route, a delivery person may encounter 300 dogs, most of them aggressive, the postal service noted. More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which reports that 334,000 of those victims wind up in emergency rooms with their injuries or 915 per day. Dog bites are often puncture wounds that easily become infected and lead to permanent scars. If the wound is deep, it can lead to nerve damage and long-term loss of feeling or function in the extremity.
The postal service is spending more than $25 million dollars per year on medical expenses and workers’ compensation costs related to dog bite incidents. The average cost per claim was $33,230 in 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Meanwhile, the United Parcel Service claims its 66,000 delivery personnel suffer about 900 dog bites per year.
Carriers Fight Back
The carriers are fighting back by entering information into handheld computer devices that alert other delivery drivers to the presence of a dog. Those entering the information will also indicate the dog’s level of aggression if that information is available. The post office and UPS will also refuse to deliver mail or packages in a neighborhood where a dog is reported to be running loose and/or is perceived as a threat. The delivery workers are also receiving more training about dealing with aggressive dogs.
Another idea is to have drones parachute packages to the delivery destination.
By law, mail carriers, deliverymen, and others who are required to enter the private property as part of their job description are given an “implied invitation” to enter the premises of the homeowner. A worker who is lawfully on the premises within the scope of his or her employment, who is bitten by a dog, can submit a claim for workers’ compensation benefits to provide injured employees with medical and wage replacement benefits.
The injured employee may also have a claim against the owner of the dog, or, in Ohio, a claim against its “harborer” or “keeper.” (One qualifies as a “harborer” if they have control of the dog, but do not own it. A “keeper” has custody of the animal, perhaps just temporarily). This third-party claim can provide the employee with additional compensation for losses not covered by workers’ compensation.
Homeowner’s insurance may cover damage resulting from dog bites that occur on the owner’s property or even in his vehicle if the dog owner has that type of automobile insurance coverage. If you cannot find out if the dog owner is insured or determine the details of his or her plan, your lawyer can handle this issue and obtain this information during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. You can also pursue a claim against someone who does not have insurance.
Dogs often believe a delivery person visiting the house at various times of the day is a threat to the household, according to Linda DeCarlo, U.S. Postal Service Safety Director in Los Angeles. She advises that no matter how friendly to strangers the dog is perceived to be, put it in a separate room before the door is opened to a delivery person. DeCarlo also pointed out that when family members accept mail directly from a letter carrier, and the carrier reaches out to the homeowner, the family pet may feel frightened that something is going to happen.
Most dogs believe they are a member of a pack that consists of them and family members. When a new person such as a houseguest or a baby or a new dog is introduced into the pack, unprovoked or unexpected dog attacks may occur, DeCarlo said.
Be aware that a dog’s behavior is always a product of one or more of the following drives:
Prey drive – Dogs with a strong “prey” drive are usually hunter/killer dogs. They stalk their prey and lull them into a false sense of security. Prey dogs usually attack silently from the rear. A dog with a strong prey drive will allow an intruder to enter the house and then attack instead of barking.
Play drive – This drive can be a safety hazard to humans. Dogs want to be petted, run around or chase a ball around. These dogs get so excited about playing that they can injure someone by knocking them to the ground or play biting.
Defense drive – For a dog defense includes two options: fight or flight. A dominant dog will not hesitate to choose the former. However, when a submissive dog is leashed or in a yard, the flight option is not available and they will choose to fight. All dogs, like humans, have a natural instinct to survive.
Food drive – Dogs with a strong food drive are always looking for food or begging. They are usually not a hazard unless people are feeding them by hand or approaching the dog’s food dish.
Sex drive – Dogs have a natural instinct to procreate. If another dog of the opposite sex is available and appears ready to mate with them, they will not ponder the issue.
Liability and your state’s dog bite laws
If you own a dog, you should have some basic knowledge about the dog bite rules in your state. An experienced personal injury lawyer in your area should be able to help you with any questions or give you advice if your dog injures someone. The dog bite lawyers at Slater & Zurz will be pleased to help you if you contact them at 888.534.4850. Someone is available 24/7. In Ohio, the victim may be able to obtain compensation under various dog bite laws.
There are three basic principles that could determine whether or not you are liable for injuries and other damages caused by your pet. Many states follow “strict liability” law when it comes to dog bites. Ohio is one of them. This means the dog’s owner is liable for just about every injury the dog causes. It does not matter if the owner did everything possible to restrain the animal or protect the public from the dog with gates, fencing, and warning signs.
The only instances in which your dog may not be responsible are if the bite victim was an unlawful trespasser on your property (there without your permission and no implied conditions apply), or if the bite victim was provoking the dog by hitting it or otherwise acting aggressively toward it. NOTE: A three-year-old child who wanders into your yard to “see the puppy” and is injured by your dog, would not be deemed a “trespasser.” As the dog’s owner, it is your responsibility to protect those too young to know better from the hazards of a dog who may hurt them.
One Bite Laws
In some states, a dog is allowed one “free bite” or other aggressive act. After that point, it is assumed its owner is aware that the dog can and will bite people. That owner will be liable for any injuries the dog inflicts after the “one bite” and may be liable for the first bite if he had reason to believe the dog had a habit of acting aggressively and could hurt someone.
Ohio does not have a one-bite rule. There is no free pass the first time your dog bites someone in Ohio. The victim can seek compensation from the dog owner for any injuries received.
In every state, you can be found legally responsible for any injuries to another person that are the result of a negligent act. You owe a certain duty to others in certain situations and when you fail to act with the appropriate amount of care, you have breached the duty of care and can be found liable for damages that person suffered.
An example of negligence would be if you had a high-strung dog and you did not take reasonable steps to shield him from others like putting him in a fenced yard. When the UPS man comes, your dog jumps on him and knocks him to the ground. Your dog does not even have to bite the UPS person for you to be found negligent and found liable for the UPS man’s medical bills and possibly other charges.
It is a good idea to check if your home insurance policy covers your dog. Some companies will refuse to cover certain breeds. After an insurance company has paid a claim involving your dog, do not be surprised if the insurance company increases your rates or drops the dog from the policy.
Statute of Limitations
In Ohio, an adult has six years from the date of a dog bite to file his or her claim. This may seem like a lot of time, but if you are going to file a lawsuit against someone, there is much to be done. Ohio’s statute extends the time period for children. A child has six years from his or her 18th birthday to file suit against the dog’s owner. This ensures that children who have especially traumatic injuries will have times to recover before seeking compensation. It also gives the child time to grow and heal so the extent of any injuries can be more fully assessed.