Dog bites can lead to physical harm, emotional distress, and costly medical bills. You may be entitled to compensation if you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, but having said that, navigating the journey alone will come with its own stress.
From dealing with insurance companies to accurately calculating all the damages you’ve incurred from your injury, it’s important to let an experienced attorney do the heavy lifting. So if you’re looking for a dog bite accident lawyer — or simply want to learn more about what these legal pros do — reach out to our team today.
At The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers, we know how to fight for your rights every step of the way. To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case and the types of damages you may have been entitled to, simply call 312-999-9990 or contact us online today.
Benefits of Working With a Dog Bite Accident Attorney
A dog bite accident attorney helps individuals recover damages after they’ve been bitten by dogs. Think of them as specialized personal injury lawyers versed in all the ins and outs that come with filing a dog bite accident claim.
Empowered by their help, you’ll be better equipped to recover costs from injuries, trauma, and other losses.
Dog bite laws vary by state, but in many places, dog owners can be held liable for injuries and damages caused by their pets. However, insurance companies — and dog owners — are not always willing to provide fair compensation, even when it is clearly owed under the law.
This is where a dog bite accident attorney comes in. An experienced lawyer understands the complex dog bite laws in your state and will fight to recover the maximum compensation on your behalf.
They can handle the legal process for you, including:
- Investigating the details of your accident and determining who is at fault.
- Gathering evidence like medical records, vet records, photos, and witness statements.
- Calculating a fair estimate of your total damages and losses.
- Negotiating with insurance companies and dog owners for a settlement.
- Filing a lawsuit in court if a settlement cannot be reached.
- Representing you in court and handling all legal procedures.
Without proper legal counsel, you may struggle to recover fair compensation for your injuries and damages. A qualified dog bite accident attorney has the knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal process after an attack.
They can make a difficult time much easier and ensure your rights are protected under the law.
Understanding Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites can lead to severe injuries, both physical and psychological. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million dog bite incidents occur in the U.S. each year. Dog bites account for up to 90% of all animal bites, with the majority being inflicted on children.
The physical trauma from a dog bite can range from minor scratches and punctures to life-threatening wounds and permanent disfigurement. Lacerations, abrasions, fractures, and crush injuries are also common.
Dog bites also pose a high risk of infection as dogs’ mouths contain many bacteria. Victims may require hospitalization, surgery, and a course of antibiotics to prevent dangerous infections like rabies.
Emotionally and mentally, the impact of a dog bite can be equally devastating. Victims often experience feelings of anxiety, distress, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The trauma of such an attack, especially on a child, can stay with the victim for life.
Your Legal Rights as a Dog Bite Victim
As a dog bite victim, you have certain legal rights to compensation for your injuries and damages. Seeking counsel from an experienced dog bite accident lawyer is the best way to understand and exercise these rights.
Liability and Compensation
In most places, dog owners are strictly liable for bites and other injuries caused by their dogs. This means that the owner is responsible for your injuries regardless of their negligence or the dog’s history of aggression. As a result, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical bills: Emergency room fees, hospital stays, physical therapy, medication, etc.
- Lost wages: Income lost from missed work due to injuries.
- Pain and suffering: Physical pain, emotional trauma, disfigurement, or disability.
- Damage: Replacement or repair of any personal property destroyed during the attack.
A dog bite lawyer can determine appropriate compensation amounts based on the specifics of your case and injuries. They can also identify other parties that may share liability, such as a landlord or property owner.
Determining Liability: Was the Dog Owner Negligent?
To determine if the dog owner can be held liable for your injuries, you must consider whether they acted negligently. Negligence refers to a failure to exercise a reasonable standard of care that results in harm to another party. As the victim of a dog bite, you would need to prove the following elements of negligence:
Dog owners have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent their dogs from injuring others. This includes properly containing and controlling the dog, as well as warning others about any dangerous propensities the dog may have.
Breach of Duty
Then, you must prove that the dog owner breached this duty by failing to act as a reasonable owner would under the circumstances. For example, if the owner knew the dog had aggressive tendencies but still allowed it to run loose, that would likely constitute a breach of duty.
You must also show that the owner’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries. In other words, if the owner had fulfilled their duty, you would not have been bitten and harmed.
You must have suffered actual harm or losses as a result of the bite, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement, or PTSD.
If you can establish all of these elements, the owner will likely be found negligent — and liable for your damages. However, the dog owner may also raise certain defenses to avoid liability, like:
- Assumption of Risk: You knew the dog might bite but still approached it voluntarily. This defense usually does not apply if the bite occurred on public property or without provocation.
- Trespasser: You were trespassing on the owner’s property at the time of the bite. Owners owe little or no duty to trespassers except to refrain from willful or wanton conduct.
- Provocation: You provoked the dog in some way that caused it to bite. Merely approaching a dog is typically not considered a provocation. Provocation usually requires aggressive behavior that would reasonably cause any dog to bite in defense.
As you can see, liability in dog bite cases can be complex. Speaking with an attorney who specializes in dog bite law is the best way to understand your rights, determine if you have a viable claim, and pursue fair compensation.
When to Reach Out to a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer
When a dog bite causes a severe injury, you’ll want to consult with a dog bite accident lawyer as soon as possible. They can advise you on the proper steps to take and help you pursue legal action against the dog owner.
That said, the first step after any injury should be to seek medical care, as your health and safety should be your top priority. Plus, keep in mind that even small bites can become infected if left untreated.
Get the wound properly cleaned and bandaged, and ask the doctor about signs of rabies or other infections to monitor. Obtain copies of all medical reports and bills for your records.
Collecting Evidence and Building Your Case
After a dog bite injury, it’s critical to collect as much evidence as possible to build a strong case. Photograph the injury and anything else relevant to the incident. Get the contact information of any witnesses. Note the date, time, and location of the attack.
Obtain copies of all medical reports, bills, and records related to the treatment of your injuries. These provide proof of the harm caused (and expenses incurred) by the dog bite.
Keep records of follow-up appointments, medications, physical therapy, or counseling. The total costs can demonstrate the severity of your injuries.
Animal Control Report
Similar to the police report you’d file after a car accident, you should file a report with your local animal control department or humane society after the dog bite occurs.
Provide details about the incident and injury. Request information on the dog’s vaccination and bite history.
Their report and records can support your claim, especially if the dog had shown prior aggressive behavior.
Consult a Dog Bite Lawyer
A dog bite attorney can investigate the details of the attack, determine who is liable, and fight to get you maximum compensation for your injuries. Based on the specifics of your case, they can advise if you have grounds to pursue legal action.
File a Lawsuit
In many states, dog owners can be held strictly liable for bites and attacks. However, some states follow a “one free bite” rule or require proof the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
Your lawyer can assess if you have a viable claim under your state’s laws. They will handle filing a lawsuit against the owner, walking you through each step of the legal process, and negotiating with their insurance company to pursue a fair settlement.
How Much Is Your Dog Bite Claim Worth?
Once you have been bitten by a dog and sought medical attention, it’s time to determine if you need to pursue legal action.
The value of your dog bite claim will depend on several factors, including the severity of your injuries, the circumstances surrounding the attack, and who is responsible for the dog.
To determine an estimate of your claim’s worth, consult with a dog bite accident lawyer. They can review the details of your case and provide a valuation range based on their experience with similar cases.
Some key considerations in determining your claim’s value include:
- The severity of your injuries. More serious injuries like broken bones, scarring, nerve damage, or permanent disfigurement will yield higher settlement amounts than minor cuts or scratches. Your medical records and bills will provide evidence of the injuries sustained.
- The circumstances of the attack. An unprovoked attack by an aggressive dog with a history of biting will strengthen your case. The owner’s degree of fault or negligence also factors into the claim value. Strict liability laws in your area may hold owners liable regardless of fault.
- Lost wages and other damages. If your injuries prevent you from working for a period of time, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages or lost earning capacity. You can also seek damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other losses.
- Policy limits. The dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy sets the maximum amount that can be awarded for your claim. If the policy limit is insufficient, you may need to pursue the owner’s personal assets to receive full compensation.
A dog bite lawyer can help you pursue the maximum compensation available in your claim. They understand how to properly value claims, negotiate with insurance companies, and file a lawsuit if a fair settlement is not reached.
For severe or complex cases, hiring a lawyer is the best way to make sure your rights are protected and you recover damages owed to you.
Most importantly, keep in mind that regardless of the circumstances of your injury, you’re not going to want to go up against an insurance company alone. Even if you feel that you were clearly in the right, these companies can use fierce intimidation tactics to make you feel your case is not worth compensation.
Worse, they can take advantage of your lack of legal experience. Insurance companies are chock-full of skilled negotiators who will take full advantage of any opportunity to downplay the severity of your accident and offer you a lower settlement than you deserve.
Enlist a Dog Bite Law Firm With the Experience and Resources to Assist Your Claim
At The Fakhouri Firm, we know how to fight for your rights every step of the way. To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case and the types of damages you may have been entitled to, simply call 312-999-9990 or contact us online today.