Dog bite injuries come in a variety of types and degrees of severity. The laws applicable to these cases are mandated at the state level. However, most states hold the dog owner responsible for the damages incurred in the majority of cases. If you suffered severe injuries in a dog bite accident, you can file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance company or file a lawsuit with your local civil court to recover your damages. The first step toward compensation is to talk to a personal injury attorney about the question of liability in your case and what damages are available to you.
Who Is Liable in a Dog Bite Case?
Liability is relatively straightforward in a dog bite case. Most states adhere to a strict liability concept, meaning the dog owner is responsible for their dog’s actions. Therefore, even if the dog owner did everything within their power to avoid the attack, they are still liable for the damages. For example, if an owner takes their dog for a walk on a leash with a well-fitted collar, and the dog manages to get free and bite someone, the owner would still be responsible for damages despite all their efforts to keep the dog restrained.
Strict vs. Criminal Liability
Strict liability is a standard in civil court, but in some instances, the dog owner may also face criminal liability. For example, if you were in a heated argument with the dog owner and they provoked the dog to attack you, they could face criminal assault charges. The same is true in some states if a dog from a known aggressive breed bites someone.
Potential Defenses To a Dog Bite Claim
When you file a claim against someone, they will likely combat your claim. However, very few defenses can shift blame away from the dog owner. Some possible examples include:
- The injured party provoked the dog to bite.
- The injured party was not allowed on the property when the bite occurred and knew it.
- The dog was protecting their owner from the injured party when the bite occurred.
- The injured party’s carelessness contributed to the incident.
- The injured party knew the dog was capable of attacking and ignored the risk.
Defenses do not always work, particularly in strict liability states. Most cases still result in dog owners paying compensatory damages to the dog bite victim.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages specifically refer to the losses the dog owner can attempt to make whole with financial compensation. These include the economic damages, which are more specific and are present in most cases, and the non-economic damages, which are more general and vary on a case-by-case basis. Starting with the economic damages, your attorney can help you collect the documents you need to prove your losses.
Economic or Specific Losses
Economic damages are specific losses because they have tangible evidence and objective monetary value. Examples of economic damages include:
- The costs associated with treating your injuries, including emergency care, hospital visits, surgery, transportation to and from treatment, future treatments, and medications
- The income lost while you recover from your injuries, including loss of earning capacity caused permanent damage
- The cost of any property damaged during the attack
- Any other expenses directly related to your injuries, including help needed to help you complete in-home tasks or care for your children
The value of these expenses comes from medical bills, receipts for property damage and in-home care, and pay stubs and tax returns showing lost and estimated lost income. Collecting this evidence can be time-consuming, but your attorney will also spearhead this part of the process.
Non-Economic or General Losses
Non-economic damages are classified as general losses because they have no innate monetary value. These losses refer to the psychological damage you suffered from the accident and your injuries. Examples include:
- The physical pain and suffering you endured for your injuries
- The mental anguish or emotional distress you went through, including post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Anxiety or depression
- Loss of the ability to enjoy your life in the same manner you did before the accident
- Disability or disfigurement, including loss of limb
The value of these damages depends on the severity of the physical injuries. For example, your attorney may use a multiplier to determine the value of your non-economic damages. This entails calculating the value of economic damages and multiplying it by a number between 1.5 and 5 to determine a dollar calculation for general damages. The more severe the injuries, the greater the multiplier.
Can You Get Punitive Damages in a Dog Bite Case?
Punitive damages are a rare occurrence in dog bite cases. To argue for punitive damages, you would need to prove that the dog owner acted maliciously or willingly encouraged the dog to attack. If you can make that claim, the court may award you punitive damages to punish the dog owner and deter them from acting similarly in the future.
What Should You Do After a Dog Bite Accident?
There are a few steps you can take in the aftermath of a dog bite accident to protect your right to compensation:
- Photographs or video. Take pictures or videos of everything, including your injuries and the surrounding area. If you can take a video, narrate the accident in detail. Your memory will be freshest at this time.
- Contact the proper authorities. If you need to call 911, the police will arrive with the other first responders. However, if the dog is a stray, you want to contact animal control to remove the danger of another attack.
- Seek medical attention. Even a minor bite or laceration could result in an infection. Therefore, you should see a doctor immediately to have the wound cleaned.
Keep in mind that seeking medical treatment produces a professional record of your injuries, which you can use as evidence for your claim. It can be challenging to prove you sustained injuries specific to your accident without correlating medical records.
How Can a Massachusetts Dog Bite Attorney Help Your Case?
If you have concerns about the damages available to you in a dog bite accident case, the most reliable source of information would be a personal injury attorney with experience in dog bite accident cases. An attorney will represent you through all phases of the legal process, from investigating the accident to identifying damages to negotiations with the insurance company. They have extensive experience in cases under similar circumstances and know how to accurately value your losses, particularly the non-economic damages with no inherent financial value. Most importantly, they offer compassionate understanding as you navigate the healing process.
At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we believe everyone deserves adequate legal representation regardless of financial status. We understand the burden that medical bills and psychological trauma can inflict on victims of severe dog bite incidents. That is why we aim to alleviate some of that burden by providing our legal services on contingency. We offer our clients the first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee, which states that we only get paid when you get paid. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers today for your free consultation. We can answer all your questions and help you choose the best legal option available. There’s No Obligation, Just Information.