Dog bites or attacks can result in long-lasting physical injuries and emotional trauma. Depending on the size of the dog and the type of bite, the victim may require substantial medical care. If the victim is unable to work while recovering from their injury, they could also experience a major financial setback. To recover losses, victims can seek the help of a personal injury lawyer and file a lawsuit.
Some 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bites from dogs often result in painful wounds that can get infected with dangerous bacteria. The CDC reports that nearly one in five dog bite wounds become infected with a disease like Pasteurella, tetanus, MRSA or rabies.
Who Is Responsible for a Dog Bite?
Many states impose strict liability laws on dog owners. This means that a dog owner is responsible for the behavior of their dog even if the dog hasn't shown any previous signs of aggression. In these strict liability states, victims often file lawsuits without evidence of the owner's negligence. In a state without strict liability laws, however, a dog bite lawyer would have to demonstrate that the owner was somehow at fault for the injury. This could mean proving that before the attack, the dog had already demonstrated a "vicious propensity" to the owner. On the other hand, if it's determined that a victim is partially responsible for the dog attack because they provoked the animal by tormenting or abusing it, that could affect their ability to win damages. The victim having trespassed is another common defense to dog bite litigation.
The statute of limitations or window to file suit may be affected by the legal basis of the claim. For example, if the strategy is to demonstrate negligence on the part of the owner rather than file a claim under a specific dog bite statute, the statute of limitations may be longer.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
After suffering from a dog bite and getting needed medical treatment, victims should gather as much relevant information about the incident as they can. This information may be used later on when they file a dog bite lawsuit. Some types of information that victims often gather include:
- The location where the dog bite occurred
- The name and address of the dog owner
- Information about the dog that bit them, including breed details and past history
- The dog owner’s insurance information
- Photographic evidence of dog bite wounds
- Phone numbers or addresses of any eyewitnesses to the incident
- Medical records of dog bite treatment
Who Pays for a Dog Bite?
If a dog bite victim wins their civil action, the owner of the dog may be required to pay for their damages. The dog owner’s animal insurance, car insurance or homeowner’s insurance may cover the victim’s medical expenses and other damages, such as pain and suffering, lost income or lost earning potential. However, dog bite lawsuits can also be filed against owners who have no insurance.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.