When a dog bites you, you may accrue significant damages. In addition to leaving you with a painful and possibly dangerous wound, a dog bite can result in hefty medical expenses, lost wages, emotional duress, and possibly disfigurement or disability. For this reason, every state allows dog bite victims to sue animal owners for any harm said animals may cause. While the laws of each state vary regarding when victims may sue, the bottom line is, you can sue and, in the process, recover compensation for dog bite injuries.
The Average Payout for Animal Bites in the U.S.
The worth of dog bite claims varies exponentially and depends largely on the extent of damages victims incur. That said, in 2021, homeowners paid out $882 million in costs associated with dog-related injuries. The average cost of claims in that same year was $49,025.
Some states see more claims and higher payouts than others. The top 10 states that have the highest average cost per claim are as follows:
- California – Paid out $120 million across 2,026 dog bite claims, with an average payout of $59,561
- Florida – Paid out $81 million across 1,478 claims, with an average payout of $54,820
- Texas – Paid out $40 million across 1,003 claims, with an average payout of $39,884
- New York – Paid out $61.4 million across 900 claims, with an average payout of $68,203
- Michigan – Paid out $43 million across 892 claims, with an average payout of $48,258
- Illinois – Paid out $47.5 million across 844 claims, with an average payout of $56,292
- Pennsylvania – Paid out 36.8 million across 777 claims, with an average payout of $47,353
- Ohio – Paid out $30.4 million across 732 claims, with an average payout of $41,499
- New Jersey – Paid out $30.5 million across 611 claims, with an average payout of $49,981
- Arizona – Paid out $21.1 million across 489 claims, with average payout of $43,059
At $512.4 million, the total value of claims across these 10 states is more than half that of the total value across all 50 states. The total value of dog bite claims in the remaining 40 states is $369.5 million.
Damages Available in Dog Bite Claims
How much compensation you may recover via a dog bite claim depends largely on the type and extent of damages you sustained. Though every dog bite case is unique, some damages are more typical than others.
1. Medical Expenses
Medical bills are the most obvious damage resulting from a dog attack. To have a claim against the owner of a vicious dog, you must first prove that you sustained actual harm — meaning, you suffered a physical injury. Without proof that you did, you do not have a case. Your proof must come in the form of medical records and bills.
Damages for medical expenses are not just limited to the initial treatment of your wound. In addition to bills for hospital and doctors’ services, you can recover compensation for physical therapy costs, medication, vaccinations and psychological treatment. You may also recover compensation for expenses that result from the aggravation of preexisting conditions.
Though almost all dog bite injuries necessitate medical care, some injuries result in greater expenses than others:
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Cuts and lacerations
- Strains and sprains
- Nerve damages
- Broken bones
- Emotional duress
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
If you received medical care for a dog bite and had to pay out of pocket, you can recover the full cost of treatment. If you used health insurance to cover part or all of your medical expenses, your insurance company has the right to claim up to the amount it paid on your behalf.
2. Lost Wages
If a dog bite is bad enough, you may have or had to have missed out on work to recover from the incident and/or receive medical care. Regardless of how much time you missed, the law entitles you to compensation for lost wages.
The law entitles you to compensation for both past and future lost wages. If your dog bite wound reduces your earning capacity or renders you unable to work at all, you can claim the amount you would have earned — including income and benefits — had the dog not bit you. To have a claim for loss of earning capacity or future lost wages, your injuries must be substantial, and you must have sufficient medical evidence.
3. Pain and Suffering
Canine attack victims often experience significant physical and mental duress in the days and months following the incident. The courts understand this, which is why most allow victims to recover compensation for pain and suffering.
The “pain” in “pain and suffering” refers to the actual pain victims live with after the attack. The “suffering” refers to emotional duress the event trigged. After a dog attack, it is not uncommon for victims to live with a debilitating fear of dogs, shock, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other psychological symptoms. Some victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder. In many cases, these psychological symptoms interfere with victims’ daily routines and drastically reduce the overall quality of their lives.
Unlike medical expenses and lost wages, pain and suffering is difficult to calculate. Rather than rely on hard data, such as medical bills and paystubs, the courts typically turn to one of two formulas:
- The Multiplier Method: If using the multiplier method, the courts add up your compensatory damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses, and multiply it by a number of between 1.5 and 5 — or, the “multiplier.” When determining the multiplier, the courts consider several factors, including the severity of your injuries, the permanency of your injuries, your recovery time and the extent of your medical treatment. The resulting figure serves as a rough estimate of what you deserve in terms of pain and suffering.
- The Daily Rate: The daily rate method allows you to value your own pain and suffering. Via this approach, you set a certain dollar amount for every day you lived with pain and mental duress because of the attack. While you can set your daily rate however high you please, you must be able to justify it. The best way to do this is by setting a reasonable rate that is close or equal to your actual daily earnings. The rationale for doing so is that the pain you experienced each day is at least equivalent to the effort of going to work.
4. Multiple Damages
In some jurisdictions, the courts allow you to receive double or triple the damages if the dog that bit you had an existing “dangerous” or “vicious” label. An attorney can help you determine if such a law applies in your case.
5. Punitive Damages
The courts award punitive damages not to compensate victims for their losses but rather, to punish wrongdoers. You may be able to recover punitive damages for your injuries if the owner’s conduct was particularly outrageous or reckless. Not all courts award punitive damages in dog bite cases, so, again, it is important to consult with a dog bite lawyer.
Get Your Dog Bite Claim Started
When a dog bite interferes with your physical, emotional and financial well-being, you have every right to pursue compensation from the negligent owner. Though the law entitles you to do so, your path to recovery may prove difficult. To make the process easier on yourself, retain the help of a skilled dog bite attorney. Retain Jason Stone Injury Lawyers. Schedule your free consultation with the confidence that There’s No Obligation, Just Information®.