According to research, around 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S every year, and around 800,000 of these result in medical care. However, while dog bites are common, not every victim gets compensation for the injuries.
Dog bites are among the easiest tort cases to resolve. However, this doesn’t mean that they result in a win for the defendant. Without a proper strategy, you can end up with no compensation for the damages.
Therefore, if you’ve suffered a dog bite and want to sue the owner of the animal, there are things you should know to win the case. Keep reading for a detailed of the essential things to have in mind when suing for a dog bite.
Who is Liable for a Dog Bite Injury?
Before suing for a dog bite, you need to know who to pin the liability on. Liability varies from one state to another, and the last thing you want to do is file a lawsuit against the wrong person.
For example, in Nebraska, the law states that dog owners are liable for any and all damages to anyone except a trespasser. Therefore, if you weren’t trespassing a property, you can pin liability to the dog owner.
Understand your state laws before suing for a dog bite to increase the chances of winning the suit. For example, cases involving bites by military dogs may be complex, especially if the dog is being used to apprehend a criminal.
You may consult a personal injury attorney if you are unsure of your state’s legislation regarding dog bites.
Understand Negligence When Suing for a Dog Bite
A dog bite lawsuit is a personal injury case and one has to prove negligence in these kinds of cases. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise appropriate care, whereby such actions result in injury.
In this case, you have to prove negligence on the part of the dog owner. However, if you acted negligently, it may be hard for you to receive compensation for damages.
Let’s have a look at what negligence means for both you (plaintiff) and the dog owner (defendant):
1. Negligent Plaintiff
Negligence on the plaintiff’s part refers to careless actions that caused them to suffer a dog bite. Such actions include the following:
- Trespassing property in which the dog is used for security purposes.
- Provoking the dog; hence, causing it to react and bite the defendant
- Provoking or attacking the owner of the dog
If you do any of the following, the dog owner can pin liability on you, and this will cause you to lose out on the case.
2. Negligent Defendant
For you to file and win a lawsuit, you have to prove negligence on the part of the defendant. Acts of negligence, in this case, include the following:
- The owner lets the dog off its leash in a public place
- The owner instructs a dog to chase, scare, and attack another person
- The dog wanders off the private premises and bites an individual in a public area, for example, in the neighborhood
In most states, a dog is considered private property, and the owner is responsible for any damages resulting from the actions of the dog. Thus, if you get bitten without trespassing or provoking the dog, you can file a successful lawsuit and get compensation for damages.
What You Need to File a Lawsuit
Now that you know the state laws and negligence, the next thing is to know how to file a lawsuit. You need to prove damages, have evidence and gather witnesses if necessary.
Here is a breakdown of what three things entail and why you need them to file your dog bite lawsuit:
Damages in a Dog Bite Lawsuit
What have you suffered as a result of the dog bite injury? What monetary and non-monetary losses have you incurred? These are the things you should prove in a dog bite lawsuit.
Damages include the following:
- Medical expenses resulting from the injury. You need a comprehensive medical report indicating the extent of the injuries and the current and future expenses to be incurred in treating them.
- Pain and suffering. This refers to physical, emotional, or mental distress suffered as a result of the injury.
- Lost wages. If you fail to go to work as a result of the injury, you are entitled to compensation for the wages lost.
- Permanent scarring or disability. Any permanent injuries suffered as a result of the dog bite.
- Rehabilitation. Some people need therapy or rehabilitation after getting dog bite injuries. These are also part of the damages.
Your personal injury attorney can help you prove and document all these damages when filing the lawsuit.
Evidence of the Injury
You need evidence of the dog bite injury. In most cases, you can avail evidence through medical reports or photos of the actual injury.
Gathering evidence is easy when the injury is still fresh. However, if you wait for weeks or months to file a suit, it may be hard to gather evidence, especially if you didn’t document the incidence.
It is advisable to seek medical attention immediately after a dog bite, both for your health and your personal injury case. Take photos of the injury and ask your doctor to give a detailed report of its severity.
In some instances, you may need a witness to corroborate your narrative in court. This is true in cases where the defendant claims you provoked the dog. You may need a witness to deny these claims and confirm that the injury was as a result of the dog owner’s negligence.
If anyone was present at the scene, take their contact so they can be your witnesses in court. Forward the contacts to your personal injury attorney for proper followup and documentation.
Lawsuit vs. Settlement
Not all dog bite claims end up in court. In some cases, the dog owner may ask to settle outside the court and pay for the damages.
In this case, you need an experienced lawyer to calculate the monetary value of the damages and advise accordingly. If the settlement offer is too low and you have a solid case, you can proceed to court.
If you go to court, your attorney will gather the required documentation and witnesses, and represent you in court.
File a Lawsuit for Your Dog Bite Injury
Don’t incur medical expenses and suffer damages due to the negligent acts of a dog owner. Consider suing for a dog bite to get compensation for the injuries. Also, hire the best personal injury attorney who’ll build a solid case and give you a win.