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Published On: Mon, Aug 24th, 2020

Bitten By A Dog? 3 Legal Considerations For Victims

Dog bites range from a minor nip to injuries that can leave life-altering scars or even be fatal – and they’re more common that most people would like to admit. In fact, the CDC estimates that there are about 4.5 million dog bites in the United States, about 800,000 of which require medical attention. As for dog bite victims, if you’re attacked you have a variety of options for seeking recourse depending on the circumstances.

Potential Provocation

One of the most fundamental facts about dog bites is that they rarely occur unprovoked. Rather, even those breeds of dog that are most prone to biting, such as chihuahuas, bulldogs, pit bulls, and German shepherds, generally won’t attack if they’re given space and approached with care. Unfortunately, the group least likely to give dogs their space – and, therefore, the group most likely to be bitten – is children. The best way to prevent dog bites, then, is by teaching your children how to behave around dogs.

If a child provokes a dog, even accidentally, it can be hard to pursue legal recourse, but not impossible, in large part because the definition of provocation is a broad one. To determine whether or not you have a case, a personal injury lawyer can help you file a complaint. During the discovery process, both lawyers will collect witness testimony and other information to determine if you have a case. Depending on the outcome of the discovery process, your case may be dismissed or move on to arbitration and possibly a jury trial.

Image/CDC

Liability And Insurance Coverage

The majority of dog bites occur on the dog’s territory, in other words, on the owner’s property. This is good news for everyone because some homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites. This isn’t universally true – some don’t cover dog bites and others exclude certain breeds, so dog owners should review their policy carefully. This means that pet owners may not have to pay damages out of pocket and it can make it easier for you, as a victim, to collect damages and pay any resulting medical bills. In fact, in 2018, homeowner’s insurance policies paid $675 million in dog bite claims.

Lower Litigation Rates

Because homeowner’s insurance policies may pay out for dog bite injuries without the need to sue, litigation rates for dog bite injuries are actually lower than they are for many other injuries – but insurance doesn’t account for the entirety of the disparity. The gap can also be attributed to the fact that many people feel positively towards dogs. Additionally, many dog bites are inflicted by a known animal and 23% of dog bite victims say they wouldn’t file a lawsuit if they knew the owner. In fact, only 14% of people surveyed said unequivocally that they would file a lawsuit if they suffered a dog bite, with 36% saying they would sue if the bite resulted in medical bills. 

If you or a family member have been the victim of a dog bite, you have a number of options available to you, ranging from a full-scale jury trial to arbitration or even private arrangements. The best way to be sure that you’re receiving the protections you deserve, though, is by having a personal injury lawyer by your side. When you know your options, you can protect yourself and your family, physically and financially.

Author: Anna Johansson

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