Over 36 percent of households in the United States are home to at least one dog, and while these furry companions may often bring a great deal of joy, not all canine interactions are positive.
Several dog breeds have a propensity to become vicious or bite, resulting in millions of dog bites in the U.S. each year. Nearly one in five dog bites are serious enough to require medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Getting bitten by a dog can lead to significant costs to yourself or your loved one, resulting in medical expenses, trauma, and the chance of permanent scarring or disfigurement.
If you’ve become a victim of a dog attack and have suffered personal injury, you may be eligible for compensation to recover your losses. If you’d like to pursue legal action against a liable party for your injury, the seasoned dog bite attorneys of Florin|Roebig can help.
Liability In A Dog Bite Injury
If you are the victim of a dog bite, one of the most important considerations for determining your options for legal action will be the point of liability.
In personal injury law, liability refers to who may be deemed liable, or responsible, for the injury in question. Liability can then determine who is responsible for covering costs associated with the injury, such as medical treatment costs, pain and suffering costs, and emotional distress.
Terms that can be important for understanding liability in dog bite injury claims include:
- strict liability: a form of liability that applies in certain cases where a defendant can be held liable for an event that occurs regardless of whether they could have done anything to prevent it
- negligence: failure to use reasonable care that results in injury
- one-bite rule: select states in the U.S. follow what is known as a “one-bite” rule, which determines liability based on whether the defendant was aware that their dog might act in a harmful or vicious way. The title of this rule comes from the idea that the dog gets one free bite, after which the owner of the dog can be held responsible for any subsequent attack
- burden of proof: the obligation of a plaintiff or defendant to provide sufficient proof to support their position
Who Can Be Held Liable For A Dog Bite?
The most common party found liable in dog bite injury cases is the dog owner. Whether a dog owner can be held liable for their dog’s actions can vary depending on the details of each case.
However, in many states, dog owners can typically be held liable regardless of whether they were aware of their dog’s tendency to bite or become violent.
Factors That Affect Liability
Determining liability in a dog bite personal injury case won’t be the same for every situation. Liability can depend on several personal and locational factors.
The most common factors affecting liability in dog bite injury cases include:
- trespassing: Under circumstances of trespassing, where you have been bitten by a dog on the owner’s private property, the dog owner may not be held liable for injuries sustained as a result of their dog’s behavior. However, there may be exceptions to this general rule, such as when the victim is under the age of six.
- provocation: It’s possible for dog owners to not be held liable in situations where the dog was provoked prior to biting or attacking the injured party.
- negligence: Dog owners can be found liable for dog bite injuries if the injury occurred as a result of negligence or recklessness. An example may be a dog owner who fails to follow local or state leash laws. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must be able to provide evidence supporting their position that the defendant’s failure to follow these laws or regulations directly resulted in their injury.
- state laws: Liability laws for dog bite injuries and attacks can vary by state. For instance, in the state of Florida, the state’s strict liability laws generally won’t apply to injuries sustained from bites by police dogs, military dogs, or be relevant in instances where there has only been property damage—lacking any bite-related injury.
If a dog bite victim is judged to be partially responsible for the attack due to provocation or trespass, the awarded damages in a dog bite claim may be reduced accordingly.
How Do I File A Dog Bite Claim?
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite or attack, you may be eligible for compensation. This can be accomplished through filing a dog bite personal injury claim. Here are some of the most important steps to take following a dog bite injury in order to file a successful dog bite personal injury claim:
Reporting The Incident
The first step to take after sustaining an injury from a dog bite is to seek medical attention and collect the personal information of the dog owner, including their renter’s or homeowner’s insurance information.
In personal injury cases where an animal is involved, you may also need to file a report with your local animal control agency. Instructions for filing an incident report involving an animal can vary by location. Your animal control agency may exist as a division within your local police department, county health department, or humane society.
Research your local animal control agency’s reporting instructions, and file a report with the agency as soon as possible. Filing this report can serve as useful documentation later on as you’re seeking compensation for recoverable damages.
Reporting the incident may require animal control to conduct an investigation of the incident, in which case your cooperation will be needed should you wish to pursue legal action.
An investigation can involve the issuing of subpoenas, a collection of witness testimony, and scheduled hearings in order to appropriately determine how and why the incident occurred.
Gathering Evidence And Documentation
Although your local animal control agency will likely begin its own investigation into the incident, it can also be important for you to begin gathering evidence of the attack.
This can be of great use in the immediate aftermath of the dog bite, even before you have reported the animal to your local agency.
It’s recommended that you begin gathering relevant information right away, as soon as you have sought medical attention. For instance, you’ll want to note the time, date, and location of the incident, as well as try to get statements from anyone else who witnessed the attack.
Additional information or documentation to gather:
- dog owner information
- photos of the animal
- photos of your sustained injury
- proof of rabies vaccination (from the owner)
- dog license information
- information regarding any prior history of dog bite incidents (if applicable)
- prior notice on the landlord’s part
Contacting A Dog Bite Lawyer
Pursuing legal action after suffering an injury can be confusing to navigate alone. Although it’s possible to file a dog bite claim on your own, your best option for negotiating a fair settlement amount is to contact an experienced dog bite personal injury attorney.
Besides offering legal guidance, hiring a personal injury attorney can offer several benefits for a dog bite case. An attorney can negotiate a proper settlement amount on your behalf using their experience in the field, their knowledge of typical settlement amounts, and their negotiation skills.
An attorney can also help you by:
- explaining your state’s dog bite laws
- providing legal guidance as you prepare a statement
- gathering evidence to support your position
- consulting other legal and animal experts
- negotiating with the dog owner’s insurance carrier on your behalf
Tips For Choosing A Dog Bite Attorney
Choosing the right attorney to represent your interests in a personal injury case matters. When you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite incident, there are several qualities you should look for when choosing an attorney.
Tips for choosing a dog bite claim attorney:
- Look For Experience: Personal injury law covers many areas, and each area can require a particular skill-set. When choosing an attorney, look to see if the attorney has specific experience in handling dog bite injury cases. Your best chance for receiving compensation in a dog bite claim comes, in part, from the experience and quality of your legal representation.
- Ask For References: Don’t be afraid to ask an attorney for references from past clients. Learning about an attorney from former clients can offer valuable insight into what you can expect out of your experience working with them. Former clients can vouch for an attorney’s skills, their knowledge, and their success in securing fair settlement amounts for clients.
- Request A Free Consultation: If you’re looking at a few different attorneys, consider requesting a free consultation to get an idea of how they expect to manage your case and the expected outcome based on their own professional assessment. Most law offices offer an initial consultation free of charge and should, therefore, have no problem in granting this request.
Damages Awarded For Dog Bite Injury Claims
In personal injury cases, the term damages can be defined as any loss or harm sustained as a result of an injury to a person, property, or reputation. Victims of canine attacks can be eligible for several recoverable damages, depending on the severity of the incident and resulting losses.
Common damages awarded for dog bite injury claims seek to recover losses such as:
- medical or surgical costs
- projected medical expenses
- lost wages (e.g. if you had to miss work as a result of the injury, or are unable to work)
- emotional distress
- pain and suffering costs
Dog Bite Injuries And Lawsuits In The U.S.
The types of injuries that result from dog bites can vary significantly from case to case. Minor incidents where injuries have been less severe may not always result in legal action.
However, a person may be more likely to pursue legal recourse if they or a loved one has experienced more significant costs and consequences as a result of being bitten.
Common injuries reported in dog bite claims include:
- bite or teeth marks
- scratch marks
- cuts and bruises
- broken bones
In more serious dog bite cases, severe injuries can include permanent scarring, disfigurement, nerve damage, traumatic brain injury, and even death.
From 2006 to 2015, the yearly average for human fatalities in the U.S. resulting from dog bites was 35, which is up from the annual death rate of 16.5 reported by the CDC between the years of 1979 and 1998.
And in 2018, nearly 27,000 people in the U.S. underwent reconstructive surgery for injuries sustained from dog bites. Young children are at the greatest risk for dog bites and are more likely to sustain serious injuries.
According to data from the Insurance Information Institute, there were a total of 17,297 dog bite claims filed nationwide in 2018. The average cost per claim has reportedly increased 103 percent from 2003 to 2018, as a result of greater medical expenses, awarded damages, and settlement amount sizes.
California is home to the highest number of dog bite claims nationwide, with Florida trailing behind in second.
Top-Rated Dog Bite Attorneys Serving The U.S.
As one of the nation’s leading firms in personal injury law, the attorneys of Florin|Roebig have extensive experience securing fair settlements for individuals who have been injured through dog bites or attacks.
We are able to serve clients out of multiple locations across the U.S., with offices in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado.
Our winning team of Florin|Roebig dog bite attorneys includes:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Chase P. Florin, B.C.S.
- Neil P. O’Brien, M.B.A.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Luca G. Esposito
- Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M.
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Jordan A. Kolinski
- Parker Y. Florin, LL.M.
- Taylor D. Roebig
- Kavon P. Smith
- Matthew L. McMullen
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
Find Help With Filing A Dog Bite Personal Injury Claim
Understanding your legal rights and options in the wake of a canine attack can be confusing. The dog bite lawyers of Florin|Roebig can help.
Our nationally recognized team of attorneys have verifiable experience in helping dog bite victims receive awarded damages through the process of filing a dog bite personal injury claim.
Our law firm recognizes that getting compensation for damages can be an important part of a bite victim’s recovery process, providing you with greater peace of mind and the opportunity to ease any financial burden resulting from the incident.
By contacting our office, we can schedule you for a free case evaluation with one of our dog bite attorneys to discuss the details of your case and to help you explore your legal options. Don’t wait. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and begin the process of filing your dog bite personal injury claim.