When out enjoying a walk in the neighborhood and suddenly confronted by a charging, barking, growling dog, the first instinct is probably to get out of the way. Unfortunately, this may not prevent an attack.
While dogs are commonly called man’s best friend, all too often, a dog can attack someone with no animosity toward it. Dog bites hurt. A vaccinated dog could cause rabies. Dog bites also take time to heal, and the threat of infection is real during that time.
One of the issues following a dog bite is finding out if it is possible to hold the dog’s owner accountable for medical bills, treatment of the dog bite, and compensation for pain and suffering. This raises the question of whether a dog bite victim can claim compensation for their injuries.
State Laws Regarding Dog Bites
Dog bite laws are complicated. When someone suffers a dog bite because of an aggressive animal, they will likely face unexpected medical bills. In extreme cases, the person who a dog attacked could miss work for several days or weeks, depending on the severity of the attack.
Approximately 15 states have laws that provide for what has come to be known as one-bite-free or the one-bite rule, which means that an owner is only liable if their dog has previously shown aggressive tendencies. However, this does not always mean that a dog bite victim cannot collect compensation for their injuries.
In nearly all cases, the dog owner’s home insurance will pay for a compensation claim if their dog bites someone. The amount of coverage will vary based on the specific liability coverage a homeowner carries.
Shocking Dog Bite Data Shows Frequency Rates
Some recently available dog bite statistics show:
- Children are more likely to suffer a dog bite than adults.
- As many as 4.5 million people suffer dog bites annually.
- One out of every 112,400 people bitten by dogs dies from the attack.
- Unneutered male dogs are the most aggressive. They are responsible for 70 percent of bites.
This information is essential because, too often, people think that a dog bite is unusual. This data shows they are not as uncommon as many believe.
Dog Bite Injuries and Their Potential Health Challenges
When someone suffers a dog bite, they may face:
- Dog bite infections – Victims of a dog bite who suffer from auto-immune diseases, including diabetes, may be at higher risk of developing an infection after a dog bite.
- Permanent scarring – When someone has been attacked by a dog, they could suffer permanent scarring, which could require surgery to correct. Not only can these wounds be painful, but they can also cause a great deal of embarrassment.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Numerous studies reveal the potential for PTSD after an event that causes fear. Unfortunately, dog bite victims may potentially develop an unusual fear of all dogs or become wary of leaving their homes for fear of encountering a dog.
These are only a few of the possible issues a victim of a dog bite or attack may have to deal with. Each dog bite case is different; no victims have the same experience. Victims’ injuries can vary significantly depending on factors such as the victim’s age and size and the dog’s size.
Economic Compensation for Dog Bites
Economic losses are those losses that are easily documented.
They include items such as:
- Medical costs – Any medical costs associated with the dog bite, including emergency room visits, follow-up visits, medications, shots, or tests. Victims should make sure they retain receipts and bills for all medical care.
- Transportation costs – Should the dog bite incident require a victim to be transported by ambulance, these costs may be recovered. In addition, transportation to and from the doctor for follow-up care may also be requested.
- Future medical costs – Victims who require future operations or cosmetic treatment to treat dog bites may be able to recover these costs.
- Lost income – Dog bite victims who need time away from work to recover from their injury may have their lost wages included in their claims. Additionally, there may also be future loss of income or opportunities available.
- Other damages – Victims may also collect compensation for ruined clothing, counseling, loss of home value, and funds they have expended but cannot be used due to the dog bite.
Dog bite victims may recover other expenses as well. Speak with an attorney who understands the laws in the relevant state as they pertain to aggressive dogs to learn what damages may be available for compensation in your claim.
This classification of losses is much harder to determine than the losses which are considered economic.
Here are some potential non-economic losses a dog bite victim may seek compensation for when filing a claim:
- Pain of injury – Dog attacks can cause serious wounds, resulting in prolonged pain. In some cases, a dog bite lawyer may secure compensation for the pain a victim suffered from their wounds.
- Pain of treatment – Unfortunately, numerous issues can cause a victim’s treatment for a dog bite to be painful. A victim may need to undergo painful rabies treatments.
- Mental suffering – Victims of dog bites often worry about being confronted by another dog. Additionally, they may feel embarrassed about scarring after dog bites. These types of emotional suffering may be compensable with a claim.
As previously indicated, the type of injury, the extent of the dog attack, and individual state laws may impact the compensation for a dog bite that may be claimed.
Process of Filing a Dog Bite Claim for Compensation
When a dog bites or attacks someone, they need to know what they can or should do to seek compensation for their injury. Once someone identifies the dog owner, ensures the dog was properly vaccinated, and gets medical attention, they should contact a dog bite injury lawyer.
Contacting a lawyer protects the victim through the claims process. Insurers do not like to pay claims, so dog bite victims need a lawyer who can take the proper steps to move forward with a claim. All information necessary for a successful claim must be submitted promptly. This may also require understanding the state’s dog bite and owner liability laws.
One example of this is New York’s dog bite laws. Dog bite victims must demonstrate that the dog had violent propensities before being attacked. This requires obtaining information the dog owner may not wish to share with a victim due to the potential legal issues they could be facing.
In most cases, a claimant must file a claim with the dog owner’s homeowner insurance. Most policies have liability coverage. However, this does not mean the insurer will automatically reimburse a dog bite victim for their medical bills. They will likely dispute the claim, which can cause a significant headache when someone is working on mending their injuries.
Many people feel that if an insurance claim is denied, their only option is to file an appeal. However, this is not the case. This is why dog bite victims should work with an attorney with experience working on local dog bite injury cases. Hiring someone to advocate on the victim’s behalf, specifically someone who understands local laws, can prove to be an integral part of claiming compensation for a dog bite.
Victims Should Know the Insurance Limits for Dog Bites and Attacks
While the liability portion of homeowner’s coverage can cover you if the owner’s dog bites you, regardless of where it occurs.
Many insurers exclude certain dog breeds. If a person is attacked and suffers injuries from the banned breed, they will have to work with a lawyer to file a dog bite lawsuit against the dog’s owner. While five states have laws prohibiting an insurer from excluding certain breeds, other issues may occur, including if someone is bitten by a dog that has a history of biting.
Protecting Legal Options and Rights Following a Dog Bite
Like any other type of personal injury, dog bite victims have certain legal protections and rights. Victims should ensure they understand those rights and determine their legal options to claim compensation for a dog bite injury.
Anyone who needs to file a claim for a dog bite injury should:
- Get the name of the dog’s owner and their contact information.
- Ask about the dog’s vaccination status, particularly rabies vaccinations.
- If anyone witnessed the attack, obtain their name and contact information.
- Seek immediate medical attention for the wounds suffered in the dog attack.
- After the dog attack occurs, take photographs of the wounds suffered as soon as possible.
- Being as descriptive as possible, create a record of how the incident occurred.
- File any local reports which may be required. These may be with the local police department and/or the local health board. Check your own community to get the information you need. Keep a copy of any reports which were required to be filed.
- Always keep receipts for treatments, medical care, and medications.
- Avoid discussing the incident on social media.
- Keep all medical appointments for follow-up care.
Organizing this documentation will help your lawyer get up to speed quickly so they can move forward with the strongest claim for compensation.
Time Is Important for Dog Bite Victims
A dog bite victim faces the same time constraints as any personal injury victim. Every state has a statute of limitations during which plaintiffs must file lawsuits. Victims may lose the right to claim compensation for their injuries if they miss these critical deadlines.
Since most insurance companies may dispute a claimant’s initial request for compensation, a victim should hire a personal injury lawyer to advocate on their behalf. This will allow a dog bite victim to focus on healing from their wounds. The more time a victim can focus on the healing process, the faster they may resume their normal activities.