Dog Bites to Postal Carriers
We can picture images of dogs biting the mail carriers as they deliver our mail. Just how many United States Postal carriers are bitten each year? What does the postal carrier have to think about if a bite has occurred? These are a couple of the concepts that this post will address.
In 2017, the United States Post Office released its statistics for the previous year. It turns out that there were 6,755 documented dog bites to postal carriers across the country. This figure only includes the postal carriers, but the ideas are generally applicable to commercial shipping companies (i.e. Federal Express, United Parcel Service, etc.), meter readers (gas, electric, water), cable/satellite television technicians and other individuals that come onto our property to provide a service.
As an increasing number of us turn to Amazon and other methods of online shopping, it seems logical that there will be more bites to people that work in such a capacity. Dogs are our friends and we all love our family pets, but they are naturally territorial and we’re considering situations where people are coming onto the dog’s turf.
I handle dog bite cases in Michigan and Ohio, so that is where I did a bit more research into the relationship between dog bites and postal carriers. In that same study, the United States Post Office provided the 40 cities around the country that reported the highest number of bites to postal carriers. I included the information below to give an idea of the range of bites to carriers in Ohio and Michigan. Cleveland ranked 3rd out of the top 40 cities with 60 bites and Detroit ranked 6th with 48 bites.
Number of Bites
I was curious as to the population of each city and how that population related to the number of bites. I was surprised to see that while Cleveland ranked highest (3rd out of 40) in the list of Ohio/Michigan cities, its population was significantly lower than both Columbus and Detroit. I’ve provided the population of the cities that made the above list.
While the number of dog bites to postal carriers seems high, the post office does its part to minimize the number of bites. The United States Post Office teaches its employees various techniques to identify aggressive dog behavior. It also provides the carriers with cards that identify homes with problematic pets. The carriers take specific precautions when they know that a dog is particularly aggressive. For instance, the homeowner may be required to secure the dog or make alternate arrangements. In those situations where the postal carrier encounters an aggressive dog, he or she is trained how to protect themselves. The postal carriers often have dog spray with them and they can use their mail bag to serve as a barrier between them and an attacking dog.
Population in 2017
If a bite occurs, the postal carrier must report the bite to his or her supervisor, regardless of the severity of the bite. That information helps the situation with the particular carrier and it helps secure information to help prevent future attacks. The postal carrier will report the bite to the local police, dog warden or animal control, as appropriate. Once bitten, the postal carrier will want to seek proper medical attention.
The United States Department of Labor generally provides coverage for the medical expenses related to the bite. The postal carriers are encouraged to pursue claims against the dog owner. Assuming the dog owner has homeowner’s insurance, part of the money recovered would be used to reimburse the United States Department of Labor for medical expenses that it paid for the treatment.
The postal carrier may also be entitled to recover money for the pain and suffering that he or she incurred. The specific laws vary from state to state, so it is important to consult with an attorney that handles dog bite claims in your state. Michigan and Ohio are both strict liability states, this means that with only a few exceptions, dog owners are responsible when their dogs bite people.
If we can be of assistance, we are happy to speak with anyone in Michigan or Ohio that has been bitten by a dog.
1 I searched Census.gov for the population statistics and that led to United States Census Bureau / American FactFinder. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017". 2017 Population Estimates Program.