Dogs are often called man's best friend, but occasionally that friend can turn into your worst enemy.
Dog bites occur dozens of times a day in every state in America, and they are becoming more common.
According to the American Humane Association (AHA), the statistics are mind-boggling:
· 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. every year
· 800,000 of those bites require medical attention
· The U.S. insurance industry pays out $1 billion each year in dog bite claims
· Half of dog attacks occur among children younger than 10
Some local governments have gone as far as banning specific breeds that are thought to be particularly dangerous, such as pit bulls. However, pit bulls aren't the only dogs that bite.
The AHA says at least 25 different breeds have been involved in dog attack deaths.
"Dog attacks can happen with many breeds and they can happen anywhere," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV . "In fact, most dog attacks happen with dogs you know and close to your property."
Of course, the old story involves the dog attacking the mailman.
That's exactly what's been happening lately in one Houston neighborhood. A neighborhood dog has reportedly attacked three different postal carriers there over the last two years. After the most recent attack last month, the U.S. Postal Service took the rare step of suspending mail service in that neighborhood.
Unfortunately, that's not an uncommon story.
After a young Indiana girl lost her nose in a vicious pit bull attack in 2009, the city of Elkhart, Indiana considered banning pit bulls before eventually adopting non breed-specific laws.
Dog bite victims do have rights.
Most U.S. states make dog owners liable when a dog bites a person. A few states force victims to prove the attack was vicious or that it occurred because the owner was negligent or violated animal control laws.
A dog owner's homeowner or renter insurance policy typically covers dog bites, but only a small percentage of dog bite victims ever see any payments from insurance companies. Many dog attacks go unreported and uncompensated, so it's a good idea for victims to contact an attorney.
"In most cases, an insurance adjuster will offer a victim who has no legal representation only 20 percent of what would be offered if that victim has a lawyer," adds Sweet .