If you are bitten by a dog, and suffer injuries, no matter how minor, the owner is most likely liable to compensate you for any damages caused in the dog bite accident. However, depending on a state’s dog bite laws and rules, in some situations, this isn’t always the case.
During this vulnerable and confusing time, it’s essential to consult a lawyer about your case to determine not only your eligibility to sue the dog’s owner for damages but to alleviate the stress of the situation and protect the details of your case.
Most Common Types of Dog Bites
Dog bites can range in severity, from minor to severe, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Factors such as a dog’s breed, the cause of the dog bite incident, the age of the victim involved, and many other elements can be used to determine the severity of a dog bite accident, and whether the injured person can sue for damages.
Every dog bite case is different, but typically, dog bites can be categorized under one of the following severity levels:
- Level 1 – the most minor type of dog bite that generally involves aggressive behavior such as growling, barking, and jumping on the victim to scare or startle them and get them to leave the animal alone
- Level 2 – still on the minor side of the dog bite scale, there is a mark left by the dog bite, but the skin isn’t punctured
- Level 3 – moderate dog bites that involve slightly punctured skin and mildly aggressive behavior from the animal
- Level 4 – multiple, significant dog bite punctures and bruising or other wounds caused by the dog’s overall aggressive behavior
- Level 5 – serious dog bites that involve deep puncture wounds, and are usually accompanied by nerve damage, bone fractures, or other injuries
- Level 6 – if the animal is extremely aggressive and kills the victim involved in the attack
Dog bite laws are different in each state, but in most areas, if an animal causes significant harm to a person, the victim can sue the dog’s owner for damages as long as the victim didn’t provoke the animal, or the incident didn’t occur while the victim was trespassing on private property. However, in some states, it can be more challenging to prove that the dog’s owner is liable in a less severe accident and recover compensation for minor dog bite injuries.
The settlement you get will depend on the various aspects of the case. For instance, a child dog bite settlement may be much higher than that for an adult because a large dog could cause a small child serious soft tissue injuries and lasting emotional trauma. In many such cases, criminal charges for a dog bite might also be applicable.
Should I Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Accident?
It’s often difficult for dog bite victims to decide if they should press charges against the dog’s owner or recover from their dog bite injuries without compensation. In more severe dog bite cases, significant damages are often recoverable and can help offset the steep cost of medical bills, lost wages, and any personal property damage that might have occurred.
But, what about minor dog bite incidents? While the dog bite laws in some states might make it difficult for victims to recover compensation for minor injuries, yes, it can be done.
What to do if someone’s dog bites you? The first thing is to call 911 for medical attention if the bite is severe. You should also take a photograph of your various injuries, be able to correctly identify both the dog and the dog owner when reporting the incident to the police, and document all your injuries, even if they are scratches rather than tears.
While an injured person’s physical dog bite injuries might be minor, dog bite attacks can be traumatic, no matter the severity. They often cause mental and emotional distress and loss of affection, which the victim could be entitled to recover compensation for by documenting their injuries, filing a dog bite report, and consulting a lawyer about the accident.
Most dog bite accidents settle outside of court with negotiations between the injured person’s dog bite lawyer and the dog owner’s insurance company. While it’s rare to sue for a minor dog bite, in more severe dog bite cases, filing a lawsuit against the dog’s owner to recover damages if a satisfactory settlement isn’t reached through negotiations can sometimes recover the maximum amount of compensation for a victim’s dog bite injuries.
Can I File a Lawsuit if Another Dog Attacks My Dog?
If another dog attacks your dog, you can file a lawsuit. This will help you cover veterinarian bills, and if the other dog kills your dog, then the law entitles you to momentary compensation for the replacement value of your dog.
However, you may not need to file a lawsuit if the dog owner accepts responsibility and their homeowner’s liability insurance covers all the cost of injuries.
How Much Money Do You Get From a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
Although it’s tempting to minimize the extent of a dog bite, dismissing it as a mere scratch or mere tear, it’s always better to get medical attention as soon as possible. If the bite broke your skin, then medical treatment could prevent an infection from bacteria in the dog’s saliva getting into your bloodstream.
Since all bite cases differ based on circumstances and the extent of the injury, it is difficult to estimate how much money you will be able to get from a dog bite lawsuit. Each case is slightly unique and different laws may apply.
However, based on statistics collected by the Insurance Journal, it might be over $37,000. Usually, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy will pay your dog bite claim if you have a lawyer fighting for you.
Statute of Limitations
The dog bite statutes in the United States goes all the way back to the 18th century. This animal law is based on the strict liability statute that says that the person injured by a dog does not have to prove that the dog owner was careless (the legal term is “negligent”), nor that his or her dog was dangerous, which is referred to as the one-bite rule.
Each state has a different statute of limitations for a dog bite, with a deadline that ranges from one year all the way to six years after a dog bit someone. On average, it is about two to three years.
In Missouri, it is five years, beginning from the date of the injury.
Common Mistakes in Dog Bite Cases
If you do not get a sound dog bite legal advice, you or your attorney could make the following common mistakes and fail to prove in court that you suffered a dog attack:
- A veterinarian or other animal expert has not professionally evaluated the dog’s nature to see if it is dangerous or vicious and they make no video for the presentation in court. Dogs are perfect witnesses because they cannot lie. In most instances, a vicious dog will not behave as friendly and a friendly dog will not behave viciously.
- An investigator does not inspect the scene of the attack, especially in the dog owner’s home. If the dog is vicious, there may be clues, such as chewed furniture or scratches on the door.
- There is insufficient documentation. For instance, the victim did not report the dog attack to the police, and they did not take pictures of the injury before receiving medical treatment.
- A doctor or other professional person familiar with dog bites did not examine the injury. The court does not know if the dog caused the injuries or whether the victim is blaming the dog for an injury caused by some other incident.
How a Dog Bite Attorney Can Help
After a dog attack, you should seek legal advice from a personal injury attorney. They will help explain the dog bite law to you.
In addition, the attorney-client relationship will protect you if the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance company has assigned a lawyer to coerce you into providing a recorded statement of the attack, asking you to sign some insurance forms, or insisting that you must fill in certain medical authorization forms before they release the funds for you to get medical attention.
Speak With a Dog Bite Lawyer Today
If you suffered injuries because of a dog owner’s negligence, contact a law firm and speak to an attorney. They can quickly assess your claim and determine if you are able to recover compensation for any injuries or financial damage caused in the dog bite accident.
An experienced lawyer will be able to ensure you receive full compensation for your harms and losses.
Christopher Dixon and the team of St. Louis dog bite lawyers at the Dixon Injury Firm know that even the most minor dog bites can leave behind lasting or permanent mental or emotional distress in victims. Our lawyers are committed to making sure that you are compensated for your harm and are also protected from the negligent dog owner’s insurance company during this vulnerable time.
Chris Dixon’s legal efforts have repeatedly earned him the status of “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers, and the Dixon Injury Firm has recovered over $40,000,000 in settlements for personal injury victims.
If you are ready to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer and determine if you can sue the negligent owner of the dog that caused your dog bite injuries, call (314) 208-2808 or contact the Dixon Injury Firm today to schedule a free consultation with our aggressive-dog-bite lawyers in St. Louis.