You don’t hear about dog bites nearly as much as personal injuries caused by other issues like auto accidents or slip-and-fall incidents. But you might be surprised to know that there are actually 4.7 million dog bites in the United States each year – and 800,000 of these incidents require medical care.
If you find yourself in this situation, you might have a lot of questions about how a dog bite lawsuit works. Here are seven important things you need to know about suing for a dog bite.
1. You (Might) Need to Prove Liability
Different states have different rules regarding liability for dog bites. For example, Florida is a “strict liability” state.
This means that the owner can be held liable for the first incident of a dog bite, even if they had no prior knowledge or warning that the dog might bite. The person who was injured also doesn’t have to prove that the dog owner exercised a lack of reasonable care.
Other states have a “one bite rule” which states that, to be liable, the dog owner must have known or “had a reason to know” that their dog was dangerous. For example, this would apply if the dog had bitten someone in the past.
If you’ve been bitten, your best bet is to consult with a dog bite lawyer who is familiar with the laws that apply in the state where the bit occurred.
2. There Are Several Valid Defenses to a Dog Bite Lawsuit
Since the definition of liability varies from state to state, so do the possible defenses. However, some of the most common reasons why a dog owner my not be responsible for paying your claims include:
- Trespassing – if you had no legal right to be in the place you were when the dog bite occurred, you may not be entitled to recover any damages.
- Provocation – if it’s found that you were teasing the dog, that you had cornered it and approached aggressively, or that you provoked the dog in any other way, then there’s also a good chance that you won’t have a winning case on your hands.
- Assumption of Risk/Contributory Negligence – it’s also possible for the dog owner to argue that you were at least partially to blame. For example, this would apply if they warned you to stay away from the dog and you approached it anyway.
If you have a good attorney on your side, he or she can proactively see whether there’s a good chance that these defenses will apply. This may change your legal approach or influence whether you decide to move forward with the dog biting suit.
3. Not All Dog Bites Warrant a Lawsuit
Even if the dog’s owner is liable for the bite, it’s not always practical to bring a lawsuit. It’s always a good idea to stop and ask yourself whether the time, effort, and financial commitment involved in bringing forth a lawsuit is actually worth it.
If you were just nipped and had a small skin puncture that was easily treated, it might not be a good use of your resources. On the other hand, if the dog attack caused a serious injury, then you’ll definitely want to pursue legal action.
4. Homeowner’s Insurance May Cover the Cost
Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites that occur on the insured property. This is good news for people who are hesitant to sue a friend or family member who owns the offending dog. Pursuing this option may lead to a fair settlement without having to go to court.
5. You’ll Want to Contact a Lawyer
Whether your file a claim against the homeowner’s policy or against the dog owner directly, you’ll want to work with a qualified attorney. They can help deal directly with the insurance company or take the necessary steps to move forward with your dog attack suit.
The lawyer will be able to tell you whether you have a legal basis for a claim, if he or she believes your case is one that can be won, and the monetary compensation you may expect to receive.
There’s a chance that the insurance company or dog owner may try to settle with you. However, if you accept this settlement without consulting with an attorney, you could be doing yourself a serious disservice. Serious dog bite injuries can lead to long-term problems that result in high medical bills and maybe even permanent disability.
If you settle now and end up having additional problems down the line, you’ll have no recourse. Don’t make this mistake!
It’s also important to note that many states have a “statute of limitations,” meaning that you only have a certain amount of time to bring forth a lawsuit. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a dog bite lawsuit is four years from the time the incident occurred.
Although this is a significant amount of time, it’s best not to delay too long. The earlier you speak with an attorney, the easier it will be to gather the evidence needed to prove your case.
Get a Free Consultation Now
If you think you have a dog bite lawsuit on your hands, don’t suffer in silence. You could incur significant medical expenses and serious pain and suffering.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We’ll listen carefully to the details of your incident and help determine whether you have grounds for filing a dog attack suit.