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If a dog bites or attacks you, consulting a Dog Bite Attorney is imperative.

Your best friend Fido is part of your family, but a savage dog bite is traumatic. Young dog bite victims often carry the experience throughout life.  Bitten adults later fear pets. If you or someone close to you is a dog bite victim, you may want to consult with an accident attorney to file your legal claim.

Many injuries result  from dog bites, some of which include broken bones, scars, illnesses such as rabies and cellulitis, permanent disability, and even death. Dog bites pose additional risks to those with diabetes or immune system diseases. The emotional cost to victims of a dog attack may be even higher.  Hospitals see 800,000 dog bites per year, an estimated six times as many go untreated. 

Each state has different laws concerning dog owners liability. Most states hold the dog owner legally liable to the dog bite victim.  The dog bite statutes differ depending upon the jurisdiction and who has custody and control of the animal. In eighteen states, the one-bite rule which protects a dog’s owner from liability for the first bite injury is enforced. In these states, a dog owner is given the benefit of the doubt that that he/she did not know their dog was a biter. In the remaining 32 states and the District of Columbia, a dog owner is liable for all bites. If a dog owner orders their dog to attack, or chooses to keep a vicious dog, they are liable for mishaps.

Most states have premises liability statutes which hold landlords and land owners responsible if a person is harmed by a dog on their property. An attorney can explain the difference in statutes for your state and help you file a claim.

Certain laws can also restrict a victim’s right to bring a dog bite claim. The most important of these is the statute of limitations which places a time limit within which all claims must be filed. Even custody of a child can be a consideration. The parent having legal and physical custody of a child is entitled to sue for the child’s dog bite injuries. If the other parent sues, the custodial parent can have the action dismissed.

Owners of particular breeds naturally worry whether they have adequate insurance or not. If the victim’s injuries are substantial, the usual $100,000 limit of many homeowner insurance policies may not be enough to cover legal claims. Some dog owners hold policies which provide additional coverage.

Who Can Sue

If you or a loved one has been bitten by someone’s dog, you are most likely entitled to compensation from the animal's owner.  The money you recover may be used to pay for your medical bills, loss of income, cosmetic surgery, rehabilitation and pain and suffering.

It is imperative that you contact a qualified dog bite attorney as soon as possible following the dog bite attack. Not only is time of the essence, but dog bite liability law is also very complicated, with many exceptions as to when and where the statutes apply. The average person may find it difficult to navigate the law alone.

The statute of limitations is generally one year but may differ in your state. Importantly, if the person legally responsible for the attack is an employee of a government agency, humane society or SPCA, the statute of limitations shrinks down to only 60 days in which the victim may make a claim. (To ‘make a claim’ means filing a lawsuit, not filing an insurance claim.)

If the dog’s owner is unable to compensate the victim because he/she has no insurance and no resources, an attorney can find out whether there is anyone else such as a landlord or land owner who might be legally liable for your injuries.

In dog bite lawsuits, some of the standard defenses are that the victim:

  1. Provoked the dog
  2. Trespassed
  3. Consciously assumed the risk of being bitten
  4. Was a canine professional and therefore negligent

If the victim is a child, the common defense is that his/her parent negligently failed to supervise the child and therefore the dog bite accident was bound to occur.

Learn More About Who Can Sue For a Dog Bite

What To Do If Bitten By  A Dog
  • Apply pressure to the injured area to stop the bleeding and keep the injury elevated to reduce swelling.
  • Seek medical attention if the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes, or if you have a broken bone, nerve damage or if your last tetanus shot was more than five years ago.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment and bandages daily until healed.
  • Report the dog bite to the proper authority.    

You should also try to identify the animal that bit you. Otherwise if the dog is a stray that you cannot identity you may have to submit to a 28-day rabies treatment.

If the dog appeared healthy at the time of the bite, it's unlikely that it has rabies. However, if it gets sick during its 10-day quarantine period, a veterinarian will test the dog for rabies. 

If the dog’s owner is insured, obtain the name of the insurance company and the amount of money available to pay for medical expenses.

Potential Recovery

The following are some of the dog bite jury awards or out-of-court settlements awarded to individuals that consulted with a Dog Bite Attorney:

  • $1.5-million - Jury award to the partner of Diane Whipple, the California lacrosse team coach who was tragically mauled to death by two Canary Island fighting dogs in 2000. In addition to paying the award, the owner of  the dogs, who was a neighbor living across the hall, was convicted of second degree murder in Whipple’s death and sentenced to 15-years-to-life in prison.
  • $225,000 - Injury settlement for a Michigan girl who was bitten in the face by a neighbor's dog and required cosmetic surgery.
  • $62,500 - Settlement award to a woman who suffered both physical and psychological injuries after being bitten by a dog.
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