Who Can I Sue for a Dog Bite Injury?

Who Can I Sue for a Dog Bite Injury?

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Who Can I Sue for a Dog Bite Injury?

Dog bite injuries pose a substantial threat to our communities in the United States. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and more than 8,000,000 of those bitten require medical attention. About half of the people that are bitten each year are children, and children are far more likely to sustain serious injuries from a dog attack. Dog bites are a growing problem, with the number of reported incidents increasing by a million per year. This is mainly attributed to an increase in dog ownership which went from 55 million in 1996 to almost 77 million today.

If you've been the victim of a dog attack, you may be asking, "Who can I sue for a dog bite injury?" Our dog bite attorneys are ready to help answer all of your questions concerning a dog bite lawsuit. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), dog bites and injury from dog attacks accounted for over one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims in 2015. The average cost per claim went up 16 percent over the previous year. 

Since medical care costs have gone up, so have dog bite injury lawsuit awards. Rising health care costs coupled with judges and juries being more sympathetic towards victims of dog attacks make filing a dog injury claim something to consider seriously. You should be compensated for the cost of medical care and your pain and suffering. 

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

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  • What are my options if I've been bitten by a dog?

    Whether you have minor injuries or were severely hurt, the owner of the dog will almost certainly be liable for the attack. However, since laws vary from state to state, it's best to contact our dog bite lawyers to learn more about your rights. 

    There are some exceptions to the owner of the dog being liable. For example, suppose you provoked the animal or knew the dog had a violent history and interacted with the animal anyway. In that case, you may have some liability yourself. Another exception is if you were trespassing. However, these laws are looked at much differently if the victim was a child. 

  • What about dog bite liability and homeowners insurance?

    Typically, homeowners and renters insurance policies offer coverage for dog bite legal expenses up to the policy's limits, usually between $100,000 and $300,000. If the damages go beyond that, the dog owner is responsible for the rest of it on their own. 

    Some insurance companies will not provide coverage for specific breeds that have a known tendency to bite, such as pit bulls. However, other insurance companies may decide to insure on a case-by-case basis looking at whether the dog has been deemed vicious regardless of the breed. If the dog bites someone, the insurance company may increase the owner's premiums, exclude the dog from coverage, or drop the policy altogether.

    Twenty-nine states in the US assign dog bite liability to the owner, with some exceptions. In 17 states and the District of Columbia, liability is not automatic. There are no laws for dog bites in four states, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, and North Dakota. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't sue for a dog bite in those states. There are three kinds of laws that impose dog bite liability on owners which are:

    A dog bite statute - Dog owners are automatically liable for any injury the dog causes without provocation.

    The one-bite rule - The owner knew the dog had the propensity to cause injury, and victims must prove the owner knew the dog could be dangerous.

    Negligence laws - The dog owner is liable because they were unreasonably careless about controlling their dog.

  • What is provocation?

    Provocation can be a viable defense to liability depending on how the state's statutes are written. It can also be used to lessen the award in proportion to the victim's contributory fault. Provocation means the victim's actions just before the attack caused a radical change in the dog's behavior. 

    An example of how provocation was used to lessen an injury award is that of a 30-year-old man who had been invited into a home where a German Shepherd lived. The dog was resting on the floor near its owner, and the visiting man put his face inches away from the dog. The man did not know the dog very well, and the dog reacted by biting the man in the face, severing his nose. The dog then proceeded to eat the part of the nose that fell off. Although this is a horrific story, the victim's award was significantly reduced because of his own contributory negligence. 

    Another case where provocation was a viable defense is where a plaintiff sued for a dog attack after she charged into a home where she believed her son was dealing drugs. She got into a physical fight with the defendant, which resulted in them crashing through a front screen door onto a porch where a pit bull was housed. The dog did attack the plaintiff, but the defendant successfully argued that the attack was provoked due to the plaintiff's erratic behavior.

  • Who can I sue if a stray dog bit me?

    Suppose you're at the park and are approached by a dog without a collar, and no one else is around. You're careful not to provoke the dog in any way, but the dog bites you regardless. Now you're stuck with an emergency room visit and rounds of rabies shots, to be careful. Who can you sue to pay for all of this? As before, it all depends on your local state laws. 

    Some states say a person can be liable for a stray dog's attack if they are the keeper or harborer of a dog. For example, say the park where you were attacked is right across the street from a factory, and workers at a factory feed the stray on a daily basis. Hence, the dog makes its home there. The dog doesn't actually have an owner per se. Still, the factory owner could be held liable by being a harborer of the animal.

    An individual could be liable for a stray dog attack if they allow the stray to come onto their private property with disregard to the potential danger. Suppose the owner of the private residence knows strays are accessing garbage for food, but they don't take preventative measures to keep the dogs out. If a visitor to the property is then bitten by one of the strays, they could be held liable for negligence. 

    Suing a city or municipality for a stray dog bite is very difficult since they have sovereign immunity, meaning the government cannot be sued without its consent. However, suppose a stray dog was taken into the custody of Animal Control, and somehow the dog escaped and went on to bite you. In that case, there may be an option to sue because they were negligent in their control of the dog. 

    Finally, suppose the stray's owner can be found through microchipping, for example. In that case, the owner of the dog may still have liability.

  • How much money can you get from a dog bite?

    According to the III, the average cost per claim for dog bites increased by 12.3 percent in 2020 to $50,425. Still, the amount you could be awarded for a dog bite will depend on many factors such as if you have any liability in the attack, how severe your injuries are, and other damages that you may have incurred like lost income and loss of enjoyment of life if you're no longer able to participate in hobbies you enjoyed prior to the attack. Here are some examples of what you could sue for:

    • Doctors visits
    • Surgery
    • Physical therapy
    • Future medical costs associated with the dog bite
    • Lost wages
    • Loss of consortium
    • Scarring or disfigurement
    • Nerve damage
    • Mental health therapy
    • Wrongful death (in cases where the victim dies)
  • How do you negotiate a dog bite settlement?

    When a dog attack happens, often, victims are left with scarring disfigurement and may lose some or all functionality of a body part. In scenarios like this, it's essential to get the input of a plastic surgeon to get a sense of what recovery will look like. If the victim is looking at a future that will require multiple surgeries, it's important that these costs are factored into a settlement. 

    While sharing pictures of injuries is great, sometimes it makes a more powerful impact if an insurance adjuster gets to see injuries firsthand to understand the severity of the bite. It's also important this happens sooner rather than later because time does heal, and the impact of the bite may look less significant over time. It's crucial to make an insurance adjuster understand the pain a victim is going through and the procedures the victim has to endure to get to a better state. 

    The first settlement offer is usually going to be a lowball one. That's just typical of insurance companies unless you're represented by a dog bite attorney. It's critical for victims of dog bites to present their evidence in a compelling way, and that's often the value of hiring legal help. There's an art to negotiation, and the more experience you have, the better your chances for a favorable settlement. 

  • How can you avoid dog bites?

    Even dogs that seem friendly can bite without warning. Here are some risky situations to avoid to reduce the chance of a dog attack:

    • Don't approach a dog if its owner is not around
    • Don't pet a dog if the owner hasn't given you permission
    • Don't reach through a fence to interact with a dog
    • Don't pet dogs that are sleeping or eating
    • Don't interact with a dog that is sick or injured
    • Leave new mothers alone; they are very protective of their puppies
    • Don't try to steal a toy from a dog
    • Leave dogs that are growling or barking alone
    • Don't follow a dog if it's trying to hide from you

    In general, avoid interactions with a dog that shows appearances of agitation, fear, or stress.

  • Why choose Morgan & Morgan for my dog bite injury?

    Getting bitten by a dog is a frightening experience, especially if the injuries are serious. When the medical bills start coming in, you may wonder, "Who can I sue for a dog bite injury, and is it worth pursuing?" If your damages are significant, it's totally worth going after the dog's owner for compensation. Morgan & Morgan personal injury lawyers can provide the legal strategy and negotiation powers to get you the compensation you need to recover in peace.

    We fight hard for clients because, of course, we want to be successful, but we also believe in defending what is right. Winning for our clients is extremely important to us because we understand how injuries impact people's lives. It's not just the medical bills; it's compensation for your pain and suffering and the mental stress you've had to endure. You have rights under the law, and we aim to protect them. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. You only pay when we win. 

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