According to aafp.org, there are about 4 million Americans who get bitten by dogs each year and nearly 800,000 of these victims receive medical treatment. This should not come as a surprise knowing the fact that Americans are fond of keeping dogs as pets and with several different breeds of dogs who bite humans being found in both Canada and the United States.
Now, a personal injury case in which you get bitten and injured by a dog, it’s often the dog owner’s liability to pay compensation to you including the present and future medical expenses and other financial losses. It should be understood that the pain and suffering that you undergo due to a dog bite can never be transferred to someone else, but it can definitely be compensated in monetary terms.
Besides the dog owners being held liable for most of the personal injuries, it should be noted that if you as a victim share the blame for being injured, your amount of compensation may be reduced. The amount of compensation you will receive will also depend on the state where you live, the result of a lawsuit filed, and your individual circumstances prevailing at the time of injury.
In this blog, I discuss not only the kinds of compensation that you can receive after getting injured by a dog bite but also the criminal and civil liability of the dog owner.
The Civil Liability
It is the dog owner’s liability to ensure that he/she does not leave the house gate open and also have the dog unchained for the dog to run out and bite someone. There can be many other examples of such recklessness and in which case if the victim is able to prove that the injury was caused because of the dog owner’s absolute negligence then a civil lawsuit can be filed against the dog owner.
Now, a dog owner might also be liable for a dog bite and injury if a dog-bite statute is applicable in some states wherein the strict liability dog-bite laws apply irrespective of dog’s history of no bite or dog owner’s prudent behavior.
In states, where strict liability dog bite law does not apply, the dog owners are held liable under a rule called ‘one-bite rule’. According to this rule, dog owners are held liable if they were aware of the consequences or were expected to be aware of the consequences of a dog causing injuries to someone and yet displayed extreme negligence.
The Criminal Liability
In most of the states in the United States, a ‘dangerous dog law’ applies according to which the dog owners are required to take certain precautionary measures if their pets have a previous history of causing harm to someone.
If a dog is viewed by the witnesses and the injured as extremely harmful, the court may also direct the dog owner to euthanize his dog. The dog owners might also be charged with manslaughter if their dogs are found to kill someone. They can also be held liable if their dogs damage someone’s property.
If any direction issued by the court in the above or any other case are not abided by the dog owner, he/she may be eligible for criminal penalties. The dog owners to help protect themselves may have a dog owner’s liability insurance which will help them cover the costs of injury caused by their dogs to someone.
Now that you are aware of both the civil and criminal penalties to be levied on a dog owner, here are some of the ways to win a dog bite personal injury claim.
At the Site of Dog Bite
In case of any casualty, people call the emergency number 911 in the United States and which is what you should be doing as a first step after a dog bite. After you provide the 911 emergency operator the reason for your call such as your need for a medical aid because of a dog bite, you must inform the operator of any risk that others in the area might be exposed to because of the dog.
Having the police record your statement at the site of a dog bite would serve a good evidence when filing for your personal injury claim.
Make Arrangements to Receive Primary Care
If you don’t receive immediate medical help even after informing the all-in-one emergency number operator, you should visit the nearest healthcare center or a primary doctor who can provide the first aid. It may also happen that neither the cops or the paramedics alert the local animal department by reporting your case of dog bite to them though it is required by some states. Move then to next step as mentioned below.
If the primary care doctor has written a prescription, do preserve it as evidence.
Make Sure, Your Case Gets Reported to the Animal Department
Report the attack of a dog to local animal control department. If someone from the law enforcement agency such as the police investigator contacts the dog owner for proof of rabies vaccination and the animal control department asks the owner to get the dog vaccinated for rabies or any other virus, make a note of such things in your diary. The officers from the animal control department are authorized to issue the dog owner fines with certain citations or take the dog away for assessment.
All of the above that is worked out after a dog bite will serve as evidence when you file for a personal injury claim.
Collect information on the Dog Owner
For filing a personal injury claim, you will need the dog owner’s details such as his name, address, telephone number, and the name of the insurance company from where they might have an insurance. The information should match the information available with the police and the animal control department.
Such an information collected on the dog owner will help you strengthen your case.
Take Pictures and Videos
You should be able to collect the information in the form of photographs, audio or video that can reveal the marks of dog bite and the site where you were bitten and injured by the dog. Collect as many pictures as you can, of the injuries you received before treatment and of the recovery after the treatment. Photograph the site where you got injured and where traces of dog running out of the fence lines can be found. If you were unable to take pictures of the dog while it injured you, don’t worry. You can take pictures, when the same dog bites and injures others.
Gather Evidence Through as Many Witnesses as You Can
You should talk to the people living in the area where the dog or the dog owner lives. They should be able to provide accurate information on if the dog has harmed other people previously. You should be able to gather evidence also during your medical treatment and recovery. If you have a picture of your clothes torn during the incidence of a dog bite, do not wash those clothes. Write everything about your experience as a victim of a dog bite. Only you know how you felt when you were bitten by the dog.
Preserve All Medical Bills
The last thing you want to be doing before consulting a personal injury attorney is have copies of doctor’s prescription, pharmacy bills, test results, emergency room chart, and all other hospital records ready.
All that said, it would make sense for you to visit a personal injury lawyer as you will have access to the likely outcomes of filing a lawsuit against a dog owner and the amount of compensation you’d be able to receive.
If you are living in Tacoma City, Washington, you can approach Whalley-Law for any kind of consultation you’d like to have. With several years of experience in the area of personal injury, the personal injury attorneys at Whalley-Law will help build up a strong case against the dog owner and get your dog bite personal injury case resolved as quickly as they can.