Many people have dogs as pets because they bring joy to their lives. But dogs’ behavior can be unpredictable, especially when it comes to strays or poorly trained dogs. People can suffer severe physical and emotional trauma from dog bite incidents. Out of the 4.7 million dog bites that happen every year, about half happen to children between five and nine.
If you didn’t do anything to incite a dog bite, you might recover damages in a dog bite lawsuit. This piece explains how you can recover compensation for a dog bite injury and what goes into determining how much you can recover.
Recoverable Damages for Dog Bites
The type and amount of damages—the legal term for compensation—a dog bite victim may recover depends on how severe the dog bite is. A bite on the arm that requires just a few stitches won’t call for as much in damages as the same size bite that leaves permanent scarring or a bite to a more sensitive part of the body, such as an eye. Those with preexisting conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, may also recover more if the dog bite causes greater damage in light of the preexisting condition.
Recoverable damages may include:
Past and Future Medical Expenses
Dog bite victims can recover past medical expenses, such as bills for emergency treatment immediately following a bite. And if the bite does so much damage that a victim requires ongoing treatment after a settlement or trial award, they may also recover for expected future medical expenses.
Past and Future Lost Wages
In some cases, dog bites cause victims to miss work, such as for medical treatment. In such cases, victims may recover compensation for lost wages. As with future medical expenses, if the dog bite causes a victim to miss work after a settlement or a trial award, they may seek compensation for estimated future lost wages. Additionally, if the dog bite prevents a victim from working their usual job, and they must take a job that pays less, they could recover damages for lost earning potential.
In the tragic case of a dog mauling killing a loved one, the victim’s surviving family may collect funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses.
Pain and Suffering
A dog bite that causes extensive damage could also cause indefinitely lasting pain and suffering. Pain and suffering damages also include emotional distress. Victims requiring physical, psychological, or cognitive therapy to deal with pain or trauma because of a dog bite may collect damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Amputation, Disfigurement, and Other Severe Losses
Some dog bites infect victims’ limbs and require amputation. Dog bites may cause excessive scarring or other disfigurements. A dog bite could lead a victim to lose the use of a body part, such as hand or foot mobility, or to lose a bodily function, such as eyesight. For these especially severe injuries, victims may collect substantial damages.
If a dog bite prevents a victim from engaging in their ordinary activities, they may incur other costs, such as hiring someone to do work the victim would normally do. Victims may recover damages for such expenses. These may include costs for house cleaning, grocery shopping, or lawn maintenance.
Loss of Consortium and Enjoyment in life
If a victim can no longer have a physical relationship with their spouse due to a dog bite, they may recover compensation for loss of consortium. If a dog bite leaves a victim unable to enjoy their normal hobbies or activities, such as sports or family events, they may recover compensation for such losses.
Preventing Dog Bites
Most states have leash laws, which means that the dog must be inside a fence or on a leash and in the owner’s control. But people don’t always follow leash laws, and you’re bound to encounter a loose dog at some point. Avoiding dog bites in many cases is as simple as staying away from strange dogs. Do not let children approach strange dogs, or without asking a dog’s owner.
If you get a family dog, make sure they are up-to-date on shots and properly trained, and never leave your children unattended with the dog. The nicest-seeming dog could turn on a child, who is more vulnerable and less able to protect themself. If a dog is eating or feeding puppies, stay away from the dog and let it eat or nurse in peace.
Caring for a Dog Bite
You should seek medical treatment for any dog bite, as even small bites could lead to serious complications, particularly if the wound becomes infected. If it is a smaller bite, you may clean it with soap and water and seek medical attention at an urgent care facility. If the wound is bleeding profusely, put pressure on it with gauze or a clean towel, and call or have someone call 911. If the wound is bleeding but seeming to slow, cover it with a bandage and go to the emergency room for further treatment.
You should also ask the dog’s owner about the dog’s vaccination record. Most important is whether the dog is up-to-date on its rabies shots.
Litigation and Settlement for Dog Bite Cases
If a dog bite is serious enough, you may need to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. In the event of litigation, you will need evidence to support your claims as to the other party’s fault and the damages you incurred. If you called the police, you should seek a copy of the police report. You should keep track of all your medical records and expenses.
If possible, you should take photos of the dog that bit you. During the investigation of your case, your attorney might retain expert medical witnesses to testify about the damage the dog is capable of. All of these things will help whether you litigate a case to the end or settle with the other party. Contact The Levin Firm to learn more about your legal options.