How Much Can I Sue For a Dog Bite?
Updated: Sep 22
While dogs offer excellent emotional support to their owner, potential dog bites can cause distress and bodily harm to others. As some people are unwilling to pay for any damage caused in that manner, others may be required to seek out legal justice in suing. In 2019, nearly $796.8M was settled in a claim. In total, there were 17,802 claims with an average cost of $44,760 each. Various factors can influence how much a person is owed, as bite cases can differ from one another based on the severity of the dog bite injuries. A study by the CDC found that nearly 4.7M dog bites occurred in 1994, so these injuries are relatively commonplace. By the same token, not everybody who's been injured pursues to use the legal system to their advantage, so it's best if a person seeks help when possible.
Dog Bite Laws
While dog bite laws vary from state to state, all of them list the owner as the responsible party. Obviously, the victim cannot sue a dog. As a result, it is the owner's responsibility for the personal attack. Some states may declare strict liability, such as in the scenario the owner knew their dog might bite. Other states guarantee liability whether or not a person knew their dog could bite somebody else. Dog bite laws also determine how long the victim has until they can no longer successfully sue somebody.
The laws cannot be complicated to understand thoroughly, so it's best if the victim sought out an attorney. In some situations, the client can only have a year to file a case. Some state laws may be more lenient and allow more time, but that heavily depends on the location of the attack. Then, there are more specific legal issues such as common law and statutory law, so leave that to a dog bite lawyer. While it's beneficial for a client to know dog bite laws, it's generally better to ask for legal advice from a professional.
Who to Sue for a Dog Bite?
Most commonly, the victim needs to identify the owner of the dog in order to sue them. The owner can pass on some responsibility to the insurance company to handle payments, but, generally, the owner also needs to seek out legal advice. Both homeowners insurance and renters insurance can manage dog bite legal liability expenses. As an insurance company, they may pay up to $300,000 depending on liability limits. As the victim sues the owner, expect the case to take a while.
How Much Can the Victim Earn From a Dog Bite?
As stated earlier, the average earnings for a claim related to a dog bite is $44,760. As this is the average, a victim can earn more or less money depending on how strong their case is. If the injury sustained from the dog bite is severe and affects the general quality of life of the victim, then they may be able to earn significantly more. Likewise, minor cases may settle for $10,000 in a small claims court. As with all elements of the legal system, the victim needs to prove that the owner did not correctly stop their dog from biting. Therefore, even if everything is 100% true, if there's zero evidence of the incident occurring, the victim is highly unlikely to earn anything.
Keep in mind that an insurance company may try to settle things out of court. By allowing them to do so, the victim earns less money compared to a full settlement. However, this may be a viable option for clients who need immediate cash for various reasons. Remember, some liability limits do make the insurance company pay a hefty amount on behalf of the owner. If a person is in doubt about how to proceed with a case, they should always consult with their attorney.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
Not every dog is an immediate danger to a person or their loved ones. However, there may come a time when a person needs to know what to do after getting bitten by a dog. After getting away from the dog, the victim needs to identify both the dog and its master. Ideally, the victim calls 911 to report the incident (documentation is crucial to build a legitimate case). After doing so, the victim needs to be away from the dog to not get attacked again. The dog owner should exchange necessary information with the victim. If there are witnesses, they may also exchange contact info. Contacting animal control may be needed for some situations.
When the victim prepares to file an insurance claim, they should use the aforementioned documentation as the groundwork. Some of the crucial evidence includes:
Photos (Injury, dog, etc.)
Police or animal control report
Location & Time
If filing a lawsuit, then it is imperative to hire an attorney. A client can utilize the legal system for monetary advantages, especially in the situation involving the victim's injury preventing work. There are even examples in the United States where a dog owner went to prison for several years for involuntary manslaughter involving their dogs killing a person. If due negligence is at fault, there are ample opportunities to sue for something as seemingly minor as a dog bite.
A dog bite can prevent somebody from working. Even as a case is being built and the victim is undergoing medical treatment, certain job opportunities may become unavailable as the result of an injury. For instance, athletes, trainers, and other physical employees can lose hours of employment. In this scenario, one could try to sue for more money. However much a person can sue for depends on various conditions, so it's best to leave the details to an attorney.
Dog Bite Lawyers
One of the most vital actions to take is hiring a specialized lawyer that focuses on dog bites. Dog bite injuries are a different subject matter compared to assault, battery, murder, etc., so there are different attorneys that specialize in these various subjects. Ideally, a person finds a lawyer that knows how to deal with varying types of insurance. Beyond homeowner and renters insurance, health insurance can also help cover some medical bills. A personal injury attorney can work in some scenarios, but typically it's better to get a lawyer specialized in dog bite injuries.
When looking for a settlement, a person needs to understand the value of an attorney-client relationship. Once somebody hires an attorney, that attorney has to keep all information confidential. The client should also seek legal advice from their lawyer, especially in the scenario involving a dog bite. The attorney can recommend several actions and perform them for the benefit of the client. Strategies for a successful case are thought of between the two, and this can include hearings, insurance claims, and other relevant info for a proper settlement.
Dog Bite Injuries
A dog can cause significant, if not often overlooked, damage to human flesh. A dog bite can easily tear muscles and skin. While the legs of the victim are often bitten by a dog, other body parts are susceptible to serious damage. If a large dog bites through a person's neck, there can be noticeable damage to their esophagus and trachea. Naturally, the damage done to a person is more than just the immediate bite. An injury can get worse through the bacteria from the dog's mouth being applied to human flesh.
If the injury is not treated correctly, the infection can become more severe. In the United States, between 30 to 50 people die each year from dog bites. It may be a small number relative to how many people are bitten, but the gloomy possibility is there. Between 6,000 to 13,000 people are hospitalized each year by dog bites, hence the need for people to sue.
Injuries vary from person to person. Even if it seems minor at the time, it can always get worse. If the victim fails to get any documentation from the dog owner, there may be nobody able to pay for the damages except the victim themself. If a person never treats the injury due to a lack of funds, then it can get worse. As the injury gets worse, the victim may be unable to complete basic tasks, including work. As a result, it is paramount that a victim always gets the legal help they need.
Factors Involved in Cases Related to Dog Bites
Dog bite cases tend to focus on the legitimacy of the claim. This scenario can include how severe the bite is. In severe cases, an insurance company can offer the victim money, which costs less than being taken to court. The severity of the dog bite also influences a person's recovery time. If a settlement is agreed upon early on, then the victim cannot take more money from the insurance company to pay for treatment.
On a related note, treatment options vary from case to case. A major injury could require the victim to seek expensive treatments. Another huge factor that can influence a person's case is the statute of limitations. Different states have different regulations, yet it is advisable to hire a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. If the client misses out on filing a case within the time frame, the case can be thrown out effortlessly.
Dog Owner Liability
The three main types of liability concerning a dog bite are:
Dog bite statute
The dog bite statute means that the dog owner is liable for all damages their dog causes without being provoked. The one-bite rule is similar, but the victim is responsible for proving that the dog's master is dangerous. Finally, negligence laws apply to the dog holder that acted negligently with their dog, especially in allowing them to continue the attack. All three main types of liability can be applied to dog bite cases, especially in states where there's precedence. As precedence greatly influences future cases, an attorney can help their client understand how to use these laws to their advantage.
Other various state laws play a massive role in the legal aspects of a dog bite. Likewise, different states can also have different insurance companies with varying insurance rates. All of these attributes can be tied to the success rate of suing somebody over a dog bite. Of course, there are more aspects such as health insurance varying between the state and federal levels, which can change how much a person pays for regarding their medical bills.
How Long Does a Dog Bite Case Last?
Unfortunately, a dog bite case isn't handled immediately. Instead, it can take several months, typically six months if the goal is to see a jury. In more populated areas, this can take up to two years. Factors relevant to the case, such as recovery time and the severity of the dog bite can influence the length of a case. If it's excruciatingly minor, it may even be thrown out of court. However, most cases involving dog bites resolve out of court with a handsome settlement. If the insurance company doesn't offer the victim enough money, then the victim is allowed to file a lawsuit to get what they believe they deserve.
Sometimes, the length of a case can also depend on the quality of the attorney hired. A less-experienced attorney may take longer than one with several years worth of experience. Likewise, a veteran lawyer that has limited knowledge within dog bites may struggle against an attorney who knows how to defend their client. Any personal injury sustained through a dog bite is relevant to the case, so recovery time can influence some aspects of it. A strong attorney-client relationship can make the process go more smoothly.
Insurance for Dog Bites
As stated previously, various insurance companies can play a role in the ability to sue another person. Homeowners and rental insurance can pay anywhere between $100,000 to $300,000 as their limit, while various health insurance options can assist in paying for medical bills. Compensation is mostly dependent on court hearings, especially when a settlement is not taken out of court. An attorney can help anybody when it comes to dealing with an insurance company.
Discovery and Motions
Once a lawsuit is filed, both the plaintiff and the defendant need to gather relevant evidence. This situation can include doctor notes, witness testimonies, insurance claims, etc. This process can last between half a year to a full year. Liability laws place a critical role in this stage, as it heavily determines what can happen next. If there's evidence that the victim is partially responsible for being bitten (for instance, ignoring the defendant's advice to stay away from the dog), then the burden of payment is shared between them. In some situations, the plaintiff doesn't get any money.
Sometimes, an alternative dispute resolution (occasionally referred to as ADR) can take place to reach a resolution. Typically, this involves a 3rd party that tries to get both parties to arrive at a settlement. Unlike the previous stage, an ADR can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Naturally, an alternative dispute resolution isn't the only solution to a lawsuit involving a dog bite.
As a dog bite can lead to a personal injury, it can lead to a trial. Trials can last a year or longer and can cost a fortune. In these instances, a client can expect higher pay from incidents involving a dog bite. Of course, some of these trials lead to settlements involving an insurance company. Whether or not a case is resolved with an alternative dispute resolution or through a trial (judge or jury), there's always a solution to suing for dog bite damages.
Dog Bite Claims
Dogs may be man's best friend, but their bites certainly aren't. A dog bite isn't something to overlook just because a dog can be a cute creature. A victim with proper knowledge on how to deal with an insurance company can earn some monetary return from losses involved due to a dog bite. A dog bite can cause severe damage to human flesh, and these severe injuries are what lead to more prolonged cases with larger settlements.
A dog hander's liability is significant to a lawsuit involving a dog bite. Just as it is with an insurance company claims, documentation is one of the most crucial parts to collect for building a substantial lawsuit. If somebody sues a dog handler wrongfully, then countersuing options open up. Ultimately, it is best for the plaintiff to have an attorney specializing in dog bites to represent their needs.
Once everything is taken care of, somebody is bound to pay for the expenses. These expenses include attorney fees, insurance company claims, medical visits, and more. As soon as that is taken care of, it's vital to treat any long-lasting injuries one could have succumbed through a dog bite. More minor cases can be dismissed effortlessly, but it is advisable to take proper care to prevent future dog bite incidents.
View all of our dog bite law blogs here.
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What happens after a dog bite is reported? Click here to learn more.
Disclaimer: The details included in this blog is offered for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as lawful guidance in any way. No recipients of material from this blog, clients or otherwise, should or should not act on the basis of any material consisted in the blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional guidance on the particular facts and situations at issue from an attorney accredited in the recipient's state.