America loves its pets — in fact, we are host to the world’s largest pet population. But that also carries risks. Dog bites are a serious injury risk, and the American Humane Society estimates that approximately 5 million dog bite injuries occur every year, with nearly 800,000 of these attacks resulting in follow-up medical treatment.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of dog bite victims pursue litigation. As such, they aren’t able to secure compensation for their injuries.
It’s important that you consult with a qualified dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. Insurance adjusters typically offer victims less compensation when they don’t have a lawyer looking out for their rights. Here at 1-800-THE-LAW2, we can connect you to an experienced personal injury attorney who can assist you with your dog bite case — they will provide a free and confidential consultation, and help you move forward with your case.
Understanding Dog Bite Laws
Dog bite laws vary from state-to-state, though there are certain common, foundational principles that govern these laws. We can better understand how the law applies by understanding these foundational principles.
Dog bite laws can be split into two camps: “one bite” laws and “strict liability” laws.
One Bite Laws
One bite laws allows for recovery in situations only where the defendant-owner knew that there was a reasonable possibility that their dog would bite — from being adjudicated a dangerous dog, and/or from having a history of aggressive incidents. This is meant to shield owners from liability in situations where their dog is normally peaceful and has only “bit once.”
Strict liability laws allow for recovery regardless of whether the owner knew or should have known that their dog was likely to bite someone. So long as the dog bite was unprovoked, the injured person can recover damages. In some states, only medical expenses are covered under strict liability, but additional damages may be available if the injured person can show that the dog was “dangerous.”
What Is The Potential Compensation In A Dog Bite Case?
For most plaintiffs, one of their main concerns is how much they could potentially be compensated for their injuries. They want to know: is it worth pursuing a legal claim against the defendant?
There’s no straightforward answer as to how much a case is worth, as it varies depending on the circumstances. For example, if a dog severely injured your legs such that you could no longer walk, then you would have a much higher value claim than if the dog had only just barely injured you.
Generally speaking, the damages you can claim in a dog bite case include:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Property loss
- And more
For example, if you are injured in a dog bite incident, and are unable to work for six months as you recover, then you could claim six months of wage loss, which would very likely be a significant sum. If the injury is particularly severe and prevents you from working as many hours in the future, then your future earning capacity could also be affected, increasing the potential compensation that much more.
Successful dog bite lawyers understand how to maximize the damages, and thereby secure the best possible result for their clients.
Dangerous Dogs — What Qualifies?
Dangerous dog statutes vary from state-to-state, but as a general rule, if the dog that attacked you qualifies as a “potentially dangerous dog” or as a “dangerous dog” (in some states, referred to as a vicious dog), then the defendant may be liable for damages due to their negligence or reckless misconduct.
Depending on the state law, a dangerous dog adjudication may be necessary for full compensation. In some dangerous dog cases, the injured person may even be entitled to sue the defendant for bonus punitive damages.
What Qualifies As A Dangerous Dog?
Again, definitions vary from state-to-state. Generally speaking, however, a dangerous dog is one that has caused an injury to another person in the past, or has engaged in behavior that was aggressive or threatening (such that another person had to take defensive action to protect themselves). This behavior must have been unprovoked for the dog to be deemed dangerous.
How Can A Dog Bite Lawyer Help?
Attorneys are a critical part of an effective lawsuit — though the law does allow injured plaintiffs to represent themselves, this is highly problematic. Even courts discourage plaintiffs from representing themselves, as it can lead to procedural and legal issues that require the case to be “thrown out.”
Skilled dog bite lawyers will comprehensively handle your case from start-to-finish. They can do the following:
- Investigate the dog bite incident
- Gather and preserve evidence
- Identify useful eyewitnesses
- Work with experts
- Navigate procedural requirements
- Develop a persuasive legal argument
- Negotiate settlement options
- Litigate the case in court (if necessary)
- And more
Worth noting: dog bite injury lawyers generally work on contingency. What this means is that you do not have to pay any upfront fees — you only pay if (and when) your attorney successfully secures compensation on your behalf.
In essence, your attorney will cover all costs linked to your lawsuit: out-of-pocket medical expenses, professional investigators, expert witnesses, etc. They take on the risk of covering these costs. In return, they get a percentage cut of your total compensation. This is a win-win dynamic. Your attorney is incentivized to secure the maximum possible compensation on your behalf, and to do so efficiently.
If you’ve been injured in a dog bite incident, then you may be entitled to significant damages as compensation. Unfortunately, the law can be complex and confusing — this can cause many plaintiffs to avoid litigation and accept their injuries without securing the compensation they deserve. This is a lost opportunity to recover what you’re owed under the law.