If you suffered severe injuries from a dog attack, you might have questions about how you can legally obtain compensation for your losses. Of course, the most apparent answer is to file a lawsuit against the dog owner and take the case to court. However, that is not the most common path to recovering losses. Most dog bite cases settle without ever entering the courtroom, and a personal injury attorney can help you understand the best legal options in your case.
Why Do Most Bite Cases Settle Outside the Courtroom?
Dog bites cases fall under the umbrella of tort law, commonly called personal injury law, and the laws that govern the different types of personal injury cases form at the state level. Across all states, strict liability is the most common rule imposed when determining who is responsible for damages in a dog attack case. In practice, strict liability places the fault for a dog attack on the dog’s owner with very few exceptions.
Suppose your accident occurred in a strict liability state. In that case, the dog owner would be liable even if they made every attempt to restrain the dog to keep you safe or stop it when the accident occurred. The court would not consider the dog’s history, even if there is a lack of any evidence suggesting the dog was violent. For example, if your attack occurred at a friend’s house and you never had an issue with the animal previously, the dog owner would still be liable if you decided to file a claim. However, strict liability states make exceptions that relieve the dog owner of responsibility under certain circumstances.
What Are the Acceptable Defenses for a Dog Bite Claim?
Every strict liability state has varying circumstances under which the dog owner would not be liable for an attack. However, all accept the following defenses for a dog bite claim:
- Trespassing. If the injured person were unlawfully present on the property where the attack occurred, the dog owner would likely not be responsible for damages. For example, a stranger jumping someone’s fence would be trespassing, but a mailman or utility worker on the property for reasons within the scope of their job would not.
- Provocation. If the injured person provoked the dog to attack, they would be liable for the accident. For example, teasing, abusing, or tormenting the dog in any way would constitute provocation and make the injured person responsible for their own damages.
- Committing civil harm. If the dog attacked while the claimant committed another tort, the dog owner would not be liable. For example, if the dog responded to someone hitting its owner, the court would likely not accept a claim for compensation from the person committing the tort.
If you have questions about your role in the attack and how the court may apply the law to your case, a dog bite injury attorney will provide the information you need and help you make the right decision.
What Damages Can You Recover After a Dog Attack?
There are two types of potential damages in a personal injury case: compensatory and punitive. The court refers to the recoverable losses from your accident as compensatory damages. These include the economic and non-economic losses sustained and are available in every case in varying forms. However, punitive damages do not compensate for losses and are not common in dog bite injury cases.
Several factors can affect the value of damages in your case. For example, attacks involving larger, more aggressive dogs typically result in more severe injuries, such as deep puncture wounds to dangerous areas of the body. In these cases, the compensatory damages are often more substantial. Therefore, to determine the value of your claim, you need to identify all the economic and non-economic losses you incurred.
The economic losses have monetary value easily calculated using financial documentation. For example, you could claim:
- The cost of medical treatment. Severe injuries may require extensive medical care, including emergency services, surgeries, prescription medications, doctor visits, hospital stays, and ongoing treatment.
- Lost income. If you had to miss work or lose your job due to an inability to perform the work you previously did due to your injuries, you could claim the lost income and the loss of earning capacity.
- Property damage. Dog attacks can sometimes result in damaged property and bodily harm. If the dog destroyed anything of value during the attack, you could list the cost of repairing or replacing those items in your claim.
The is not a comprehensive list of damages. However, should you hire an attorney, they will use their experience in dog accident cases to identify the damages in your case and collect the evidence necessary to support them.
Non-economic losses refer to how the attack and injuries affected you mentally and emotionally. For example, you can claim the pain and suffering you endured, the loss of your ability to enjoy life, disability, disfigurement, and any damage to your mental health, including depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Your attorney will calculate these losses using a sophisticated method of assigning monetary value to psychological damages.
Only in rare cases would the court allow an award of punitive damages. This type of damages does not compensate for anything you lost. Instead, the court uses the order to punish the defendant for gross negligence or intentionally causing harm. For example, if you suffered life-changing injuries because someone deliberately encouraged their dog to attack you, you may have a case for punitive damages.
What Does a Dog Bite Injury Attorney Do and How Can They Help?
Personal injury attorneys specialize in tort law, which means they handle cases involving auto accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, dog attacks, and more. For example, if you suffered an injury caused by a negligent dog owner, a dog bite attorney can help you understand who is liable for the damages. Other tasks they do when acting as your legal representative include:
- Communicating your claim with the dog owner’s insurance company
- Investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident to determine who is at fault and what damages you can recover
- Calculating the monetary value of your non-economic losses
- Offering legal advice throughout the process to ensure the protection of your rights
- Providing insight into the laws that govern dog bite cases in your state
- Negotiating a fast and fair settlement so you can avoid court and get your life back on track
- Providing resources, such as doctors with experience helping victims of dog attacks
The sooner you schedule an appointment with an attorney, the more beneficial it will be. The statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit in a dog bite case is typically around three years, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to build a solid case. You have nothing to fear if your primary concern is lawyer’s fees. At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, our attorneys work with accident victims daily. We understand the financial devastation that a dog bite accident can cause. That is why the first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee states that we only receive payment for our services if you get paid for your losses. Contact us today for your free case evaluation and speak directly with a dog bite injury lawyer.