Even a tiny dog can create a damaging puncture wound when they bite you in the right place. A powerful breed can cause devastating injuries in seconds, resulting in significant medical expenses and lost income. Tort law provides dog bite victims the chance to recover the losses they sustained in an accident, and the value of your settlement depends on several factors, including the accident’s severity. If you have questions about the legal options available and what you can recover, a dog bite injury attorney can help you build your case.
What Are the Recoverable Damages From a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
According to personal injury law, any recoverable loss from an accident resulting in bodily harm falls under the umbrella of compensatory damages. This includes the general and specific losses as defined by the law. In rare cases, you may even have access to punitive damages.
Specific damages are your economic losses, meaning those with a definite monetary value. The types of specific damages available depend on the unique details of your case, but some common examples include:
- Medical expenses. You can request compensation for all medical bills if you need emergency care, surgery, medications, or any other treatment.
- Lost income. If your injuries resulted in missed work or loss of earning capacity, you could recover current and future lost wages.
- Property damage. If any of your property was damaged during the attack, you could request compensation to repair or replace it.
- Related expenses. Any expense necessary as a result of the accident is potentially recoverable. For example, if you are your household’s primary childcare provider, your claim should include compensation for childcare services.
As the person filing the claim, you are responsible for providing evidence to support your claim. This could include pay stubs, medical bills, and other related receipts.
General damages refer to your non-economic losses, meaning those with no definite monetary value. General damages vary from person to person because everyone can react differently to a traumatic event. Some examples of recoverable non-economic losses include:
- Mental and physical pain and suffering
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life
- Disability or disfigurement
- Diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder
These claims typically come from severe attacks resulting in serious injuries. Your attorney may interview friends, family, and close acquaintances to understand how your injuries affect your daily life. They may also acquire the testimonies of medical and behavioral professionals to provide expert opinions to support your claim. Then, they need to employ an accepted method to value these damages.
Receiving punitive damages in a dog bite case is rare. However, if you can prove that the dog owner acted with gross negligence or intent to harm, the court may decide to punish them financially as a deterrent. For example, if the dog owner assaulted you and encouraged the dog to attack, they would face criminal charges separate from your case, but the malicious intent could constitute punitive damages through the civil court.
Who Is Liable for Damages in a Dog Bite Case?
Liability is almost always straightforward in a dog bite case. Only under specific circumstances would the dog owner not be liable. However, particular laws are mandated at the state level.
Most states apply strict liability to dog bite cases, meaning the owner is entirely responsible even if they attempted to stop the dog and took every precaution to prevent the attack. So, for example, if you suffered an attack at the park by a dog on a leash and the owner could not stop it, they would still be liable for your injuries and the damages incurred.
Most states mandate similar exceptions to the strict liability concept. For example, in Massachusetts, the dog owner would not be liable if the injured person committed another tort to incite the attack, trespassed on the property where the dog was, or intentionally provoked the dog to attack. Additionally, Massachusetts law does not consider whether the dog has a history of causing bodily harm or property damage.
What Should You Do After a Dog Bite Accident?
You can take a few crucial steps following a dog attack to protect yourself, others, and your potential personal injury case. Some things you should do include:
- Call out for help. If no one is in the immediate vicinity when the attack occurs, you should call out for help and protect yourself by covering vital organs or areas of the body that could cause more severe damage if punctured, such as main arteries.
- Gather evidence. If you are physically able, start collecting evidence once the dog is safely away. Take photographs of the area, including where the dog was when the encounter occurred, and your injuries.
- Collect contact information. If you do not know the owner, request their name, insurance, and contact information. Also, look for eyewitnesses who can testify to what happened and ask for their contact information.
- Alert the authorities. You can call the police to report the attack and alert animal control. They can ensure the dog is in a safe location and away from the public where it could attack someone else.
If you have questions about liability or the damages available, you may need to contact an attorney. You can typically access compensation under the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
Possible Defenses to a Dog Bite Claim
There are only a few ways to defend against a dog bite claim. The dog owner may claim you were unlawfully present on their property at the time of the attack or that you teased or tormented the dog, evoking an adverse reaction. Provoking the dog could result in a negligence claim from the dog owner. Therefore, it is best to understand your liability before pursuing a claim.
When Do You Need To Hire a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer?
Proving negligence in a dog bite case is usually not complex, but several things can complicate the process. For example, dog bite victims often know the dog owner. Sometimes they have close relationships and fear causing conflict and damaging those relationships. However, the financial repercussions of a severe dog bite can collect quickly, and victims deserve the opportunity to recover their losses. A dog bite injury lawyer can help you delicately handle the legal process. Often, there is little communication with the dog owner. Instead, your attorney will work directly with the insurance company and attempt to settle the case quickly.
If you suffered significant injuries from a dog attack and are facing a combative insurance adjuster, a personal injury attorney with experience in dog bite cases can help you get the compensation you deserve. At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, our experienced lawyers will investigate the incident to build a solid, reputable case and handle all negotiations with the insurer. We have helped countless victims get their lives back on track, and we understand the financial burden they face. To help alleviate some of that burden, we charge no upfront fee to start working on your case. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee is that we only get paid when we secure a payment for you. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers for your free consultation today.