When it comes to personal injury claims, including those stemming from animal bites, it is difficult to assign an “average” value. Every situation is unique, and every person reacts to the same injuries and events differently. For these main reasons, it is dangerous for dog bite victims to base their expectations on settlement averages.
That said, it is important to have some idea of what your case is worth before you enter the negotiation process. This is especially true if your wound necessitated substantial medical care and resulted in drastic lifestyle changes, as your damages may be worth more than the insurance company and defendant care to admit. If you do not carefully value your losses before beginning the claims process, you may unwittingly settle for far less than what your case is worth. An experienced dog bite lawyer can assess the evidence associated with your case and help you value your claim so that you may enter the settlement process armed with a fair starting point.
Dog Bite Settlement Averages
Because the law deems the terms of legal settlements “confidential,” there is no actual data that confirms just how much a dog bite case settles for on average. However, what is not confidential is how much homeowners’ insurance companies pay out annually in dog bite claims. Based on dog bite claim data from insurance companies, you can glean a rough average of the worth of these types of claims. Some notable findings are as follows:
- In 2019, 17,866 dog bite claims were filed in the U.S.
- That same year, insurance companies paid out more than $802 million in settlements, bringing the average settlement value to roughly $43,653.
- Florida, New York and New Hampshire boasted the highest individual claim averages, with averages between $53,603 and $55,800.
- California insurers paid out the most claims in 2019, with nearly two times as many claims as any other state. However, the average claim value in the Golden State was just $51,264.
- Ohio boasts the lowest average settlement amount, at $31,779, despite having the seventh highest number of claims of any state in the U.S.
Even armed with these averages, it is probably in your best interests to focus on the individual factors of your case, which are far more likely to influence the outcome of your case than anything else.
Types of Damages Available in Dog Bite Cases
Dog bites are no joking matter. For many people, dog bites necessitate immediate medical attention. More extensive wounds require ongoing care and possibly medication to prevent or clear up infections. Even more serious injuries may require surgery. These are just the immediate damages associated with an animal attack. It is not uncommon for dog bite victims to live with long-term consequences, such as the following:
- Nerve, tendon and/or muscle damage
- Loss of function of a limb
- Trauma, emotional duress and PTSD
Long-term consequences can drastically interfere with a person’s overall quality of life. For this reason, the courts allow victims to recover compensation for various types of damages. By familiarizing yourself with the types of damages available in dog bite cases, you can, at the very least, guestimate what your claim may be worth.
Medical expenses are the foremost type of damages you will receive in your dog bite injury case. Assuming state laws entitle you to compensation, the offending dog’s owner or insurance company must compensate you for any out-of-pocket expenses you paid to treat your wound. Medical expenses may include but are not limited to ambulatory services, emergency room costs, hospitalization, surgery, doctor’s visits, physical therapy and psychological services, to name a few.
Medical expenses are a type of economic damage. What this means is that they come with a set value and are therefore easy to calculate. To determine how much in medical expenses the defendant owes you, the deciding parties must simply add up your medical bills.
Lost wages are another type of economic loss that you can easily calculate by referring to your income and benefit statements. When you suffer a personal injury, the law entitles you to recover compensation for the number of days or hours you missed work for the recovery, diagnosis or treatment of your injury.
Not only may you recover compensation for past lost wages but also, the law entitles you to recover for future lost wages if your doctor anticipates that your injury will impede your ability to earn an income in the future. If you can work, but if your injury prevents you from working to your full potential — meaning, it reduces your earning capacity — you may receive compensation for loss of earning capacity.
Finally, the courts may award damages for lost benefits. If you missed out on retirement income, health benefits, vacation days, etc., during your recovery period, you may be able to file a claim for those types of damages.
If the incident that led to your dog bite also resulted in property damages, you may be able to recover the cost of your losses via your dog bite claim. Types of property damages that are common in dog bite cases include eyeglasses repair, bicycle replacement, cellphone replacement, garment replacement and purse replacement, to name a few.
Depending on state laws, you may be able to recover “multiple damages,” which are basically double or triple the value of damages the deciding parties would have awarded otherwise. The courts typically award multiple damages when a dog has a prior “dangerous dog” designation but goes on to injure someone regardless. Though state laws differ as to what constitutes a “dangerous dog,” the consensus is that a dangerous dog has a history of doing the following:
- Aggressively attacking, biting or endangering another human or domestic animal
- Inflicting serious injury on a human either on public or private property
- Biting or causing injury when unprovoked
- Killing another domestic animal or human
- Approaching or chasing a person upon public grounds when unprovoked
- Acting in such a manner as to put an individual at a reasonable fear of becoming injured
These are just a few examples of what makes a dog “dangerous.” It is wise to check state laws before filing for multiple damages.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refers to the physical pain and emotional suffering a dog bite victim experiences after an incident. Pain and suffering is a “non-economic” damage and includes difficult-to-value injuries such as emotional duress, fear, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbances.
Some states may award punitive damages in dog bites cases. The courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant and defer future similar instances of negligence rather than to compensate victims for their losses. Not all states allow punitive damages, so it is important to consult with a dog bite lawyer before trying to file a claim for such losses.
Let a Skilled Dog Bite Lawyer Value Your Claim
It is difficult to value a dog bite claim without first assessing the full extent of your losses, and almost never is it a good idea to guestimate your claim’s worth using the “average settlement” as a reference. For the most accurate assessment of your claim, consult with an experienced dog bite lawyer who can review the evidence, identify all your losses and determine an appropriate value. For help valuing your claim, schedule a free consultation with Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, where There’s No Obligation, Just Information®.