Not the best policy

by Walter Olson on May 27, 2010

State Farm asks a family to pay for the bumper damage after its dog is run over [AFP, Ontario]

{ 15 comments }

1 Jay Markowitz 05.27.10 at 6:07 pm

It does seem that the dog owner was at fault for letting the dog run free around the neighborhood.

If the dog bit a person or another dog, she would be liable.

I guess that State Farm does not weigh the cost of fighting bad PR against the cost of the claim.

2 L Nettles 05.27.10 at 7:46 pm

My homeowners insurer (State Farm) paid a claim just like that. We were negligent in letting the dog get loose. Of course we were worried more about our pet.

3 Bill Poser 05.27.10 at 7:57 pm

I wonder about the amount of the claim. What kind of damage is a collision (presumably at a fairly low speed since it was a residential neighborhood) with a dog going to cause to a bumper? If I’m not mistaken, a typical bumper runs around $300. Add to that some labor, presumably not a huge amount as bumpers are not hard to get at, and a $1700 bill does not seem reasonable.

4 Jason Barney 05.27.10 at 8:15 pm

I once hit a dog that ran in front of me and it caused more damage than you may think. The dog I hit died and I wrote off the damage to my car since it was a junker commuter car (good ol’ college days). But if it were a new car I would want it fixed, one way or another. State Farm may seem callous making a subro claim like this but part of that recovery is probably their insured’s deductible. It doesn’t sound like their insured should be out of pocket any money. However, these types of recovery claims do run the risk of bad press. The insurer’s letter could have better explained why they sought recovery and maybe then only their insured’s deductible, and write off the rest. I wonder if there’s an industry best practice for making subrogation claims for vehicle damages where a pedestrian was killed and at fault for denting the hood or whatnot. Sometimes it’s better to walk away and write it off to the cost of doing business.

5 John Burgess 05.27.10 at 8:15 pm

I’m not terribly sympathetic to the dog owners. Now, if it were their kid who ran out into the street…

6 Rliyen 05.27.10 at 8:17 pm

RE: Dog owners

two words: NO SYMPATHY.

And this is coming from a pet owner who, you know, actually takes care of them.

7 Ron Stimbert 05.27.10 at 9:01 pm

She even admits that they let the dog run loose. While there are many things you can teach a dog, looking both ways before crossing the road isn’t one of them.

I feel bad for the dog, but not the owners. Pay the freaking bill and for the next dog, find time in your busy day to walk the damn thing.

8 gitarcarver 05.27.10 at 10:09 pm

Bill Poser,

Your assessment of the price shows your age, my friend. ;)

You remember the days when bumpers actually protected the car. Now they are more of “disposable energy absorbers.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did a series of tests on cars and the tests include a corner bumper impact at 3 mph. The costs for some of the smaller cars are unbelievable. The Kia Rio cost $1758 to repair. The Mini Cooper was $2637 to repair.

http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr061109.html#

A friend of mine recently tapped a Mercedes SUV. The bumper cover cracked. To replace the cover – and no other damage to the car or the supporting bumper structure – was over $1200. Just one plastic piece was $1200. I know it is a Benz and all that, but the days of a $300 bumper seem to be long gone.

9 Richard Nieporent 05.27.10 at 10:12 pm

Good point Ron. The article states “A local bylaw requires pets to be on a leash when off the owner’s property, but the Flemmings said Jake had become accustomed to roaming outside the family’s home.” You notice how they use the infamous passive tense to avoid taking responsibility for what happened. Let’s rewrite the sentence in an active voice. The Flemmings said we have always allowed Jake to roam outside the family’s home because we are irresponsible dog owners. Now we can easily see who is at fault.

10 Tom Murin 05.27.10 at 10:22 pm

Absolutely the best policy. Remember, included in the (subrogation) claim is the insured’s deductible. They shouldn’t eat it just because htey hit Fido. I can recall not going after pedestrians who were at fault, but it is the same theory.

11 VMS 05.27.10 at 11:43 pm

In New York there is no liability for this type of occurrence on the part of the pet/domestic animal owner even for violation of leash laws or other negligence. The standard for liability in New York is much different, namely, the plaintiff has to prove that the owner knew of the animal’s “vicious” propensity to cause harm. But once this is proven, there is strict liability.

Here are the cases if anyone cares to read them:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/search/display.html?terms=animals%20or%20wildlife&url=/nyctap/I09_0092.htm

http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/search/display.html?terms=Dog&url=/nyctap/I06_0046.htm

http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/search/display.html?terms=Dog&url=/nyctap/I08_0040.htm

12 Nobody Special 05.28.10 at 8:38 am

It’s very possible that the material cost of the plastic bumper and the labor cost of its installation to be less than the cost of painting the bumper.

13 Dennis 05.28.10 at 8:52 am

If you love your dog, keep it under control.

As far as the cost of repairs, you can’t drive by a body shop without incurring a $500 bill.

14 Dennis 05.28.10 at 8:57 am

> While there are many things you can teach a dog, looking both ways before crossing the road isn’t one of them.

We were training a pup. One of the standard drills was that, on arriving at the crosswalk, the handler would stop, the dog would sit, and then they crossed. So the beast managed to break away and take itself for the walk. It ran up to the crosswalk, sat, and then dashed out in front of an oncoming car. Fortunately, the car missed. It was actually hilarious after the terror was over.

15 Ron Stimbert 05.28.10 at 9:21 am

“We were training a pup. One of the standard drills was that, on arriving at the crosswalk, the handler would stop, the dog would sit, and then they crossed. So the beast managed to break away and take itself for the walk. It ran up to the crosswalk, sat, and then dashed out in front of an oncoming car. Fortunately, the car missed. It was actually hilarious after the terror was over.”

I enjoyed that (since the dog was safe.)

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