Dogs are one of the most popular pets in the United States and can be wonderful companions and service animals. However, they can also cause serious injuries. Every day, about 1,000 people go to the emergency room due to dog bite injuries. Dog bites also result in about 14,000 hospitalizations every year. If you or a family member has injuries from a dog bite, the dog’s owner may be liable for your damages.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a psychiatric condition that people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event may develop. PTSD can affect people’s physical and mental health and their sense of well-being.
Anyone can experience PTSD and about one in 11 people develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men.
People experiencing PTSD may have disturbing, intense feelings and thoughts that persist after the traumatic event that caused them is over. They may have nightmares or flashbacks; experience anger or fear and feel estranged or detached from others. People with PTSD may avoid situations and people that remind them of the traumatic event and may have intense negative reactions to ordinary stimuli, such as loud noises or unexpected physical contact.
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms can vary in frequency and intensity and not every person will experience every symptom.
Intrusive thoughts can include nightmares, memories and flashbacks. Some people experience intense flashbacks that make them feel like they are reliving the traumatic experience.
Changes in Mood and Cognition
People with PTSD may be unable to remember all or a portion of the traumatic event. They may develop self-esteem issues or feel negative emotions toward others. They may have difficulty experiencing positive emotions and lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
People with PTSD may avoid places, people, objects, activities and situations that trigger disturbing memories. They may also attempt to avoid thinking about or remembering the traumatic event and resist talking about the event or how they feel about it.
Changes in Reactivity and Arousal
People with PTSD may be prone to angry outbursts, irritability and self-destructive or reckless behavior. They may become easily startled, suspicious and overly watchful of their surroundings. They may also have difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
Some people who do not have PTSD may experience some or all of these symptoms after a traumatic event. To receive a PTSD diagnosis, the symptoms must last for at least a month and must cause significant distress or difficulty with daily functioning.
For many people, symptoms begin within three months of the traumatic event. However, it can take longer for symptoms to appear and some people may experience symptoms for months or years. Many people with PTSD also experience depression, memory problems, substance abuse and other mental and physical health issues.
Types of Injuries Dog Bites Cause
Dog bites commonly cause several types of injuries.
Puncture wounds result when a dog’s teeth penetrate the skin of the bite victim. Puncture wounds from dog bites can lead to serious infections, permanent scarring, nerve problems and disfigurement.
Large dogs with powerful jaws can break bones. Common locations for broken bones include arms, wrists, hands, fingers, legs, feet, ankles and the face.
A dog bite to the face can cause eye damage:
- Corneal abrasion
- Punctures and ruptures
- Dislocation or perforation of the lens
- Intraocular hemorrhage
- Orbital fractures
- Loss of an eye
Dogs may also cause damage to the eyes with their claws during an attack.
Dog attacks can be traumatic experiences for victims. People may experience depression, an intense fear of dogs, PTSD and other psychological conditions. Psychological trauma is particularly common in children.
Massachusetts Dog Bite Law
Massachusetts law imposes strict liability on dog owners for injuries caused by their dogs. Strict liability does not require negligence on the part of the dog owner.
Because of this, dog owners are responsible for injuries their dogs cause even if the owner attempted to restrain the animal or otherwise prevent it from biting and the dog has no previous bite history. However, if you provoked the dog or the bite occurred in a place where you had no legal right to be, the owner may not be liable.
Suing for Damages Because of PTSD From a Dog Bite
You can sue for the emotional trauma, such as PTSD, that results from a dog bite. While the courts generally recognize that PTSD can result from traumatic events, such as dog bites, you may need to provide documentation from a medical professional or testimony from an expert witness to prove your case.
Damages Dog Bite Victims Can Recover
If you have PTSD and other injuries from a dog bite, there are several types of damage you can recover.
Medical expenses may include treatment for physical and emotional injuries. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can provide various types of treatments for PTSD. If your PTSD requires medical treatment, you may be able to recover the cost from the dog owner.
Lost Wages and Future Earning Potential
If you miss work because of your PTSD and physical injuries, the dog owner may be liable for your lost wages. Additionally, if your emotional or physical trauma affects your ability to earn a living, you may be able to recover damages for lost future income. For example, if you have to quit your job as a package delivery person because of your fear of dogs caused by a dog bite, the dog owner may owe you for the future income you will lose.
Emotional distress is more difficult for courts to value because unlike medical bills and lost wages, there is no specific dollar amount attached to it. The judge will consider several factors, such as how severely your emotional distress impacts your day-to-day life and how long medical professionals expect the distress to last.
Judges sometimes award punitive damages to punish a dog owner for wrongdoing. Courts typically only award punitive damages in cases that involve reckless or intentional misconduct. For example, a person who has a dog that has a bite history may be guilty of reckless conduct if that person intentionally allows the dog into a situation, such as being off-leash on public property, where the dog could bite someone.
Additionally, if you need corrective or plastic surgery, have a disfiguring injury or suffered property damage as the result of the dog bite, you may recover damages.
Proving Your PTSD Case
Emotional trauma and the resulting damages can be more difficult to prove than physical injuries. The attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers can help you obtain and present the evidence you need to prove your case.
The financial burden placed on the victims of personal injury can be immense, in order to alleviate that burden, Jason Stone Injury Lawyers require no upfront fee to get started on your case. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures we get paid only after you get paid. The team at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers is ready and available to assist you with your claim. Contact us at 800-577-5188 to speak to a dog bite lawyer.