Being bitten by a dog is not an unusual occurrence – in fact, approximately 4.7 million people are bitten each year in the United States. While more than 80% of these bites don’t cause serious injury and go untreated, about 800,000 people have to visit their doctor or the emergency room to have their wounds attended to. However, the number of deaths is relatively small – according to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), less than 20 people die from dog bites each year.
However, just because there are few fatalities, this doesn’t mean that a dog bite isn’t dangerous. A dog bite can cause significant damage, resulting in lost wages and suffering for which victims need to be compensated. This is done by filing a personal injury lawsuit, as is the case with any other serious injury – such as those caused by car crashes or fires. However, laws governing claims for dog bites vary from state to state and proving liability can be difficult in some cases. Therefore, if you are seriously injured by a dog, it is important that you contact a personal injury law firm such as SGPLaw.com.
Depending on where you live, the conditions under which you can successfully sue can vary. For example, dog owners in California are generally responsible if their dog bites someone, but there are exceptions. If you are trespassing when you are bitten, for instance, the owner is not responsible. If you provoked the dog, this can also compromise your case – particularly if the dog owner told you to leave the dog alone prior to the attack. There are also exceptions when a dog bites a vet who is treating it, or if it is a police or military dog. However, you need to check with your personal injury lawyer to find out what conditions apply in your jurisdiction.
About 16,000 personal injury claims are made for dog bites each year, and the typical payout is a little less than $30,000 excluding legal fees. However, the amount that you receive will vary substantially based upon the severity of your injury, as well as the size of any personal losses that you sustained as a result of the bite. In many states, dog bites are covered under homeowner insurance policies, so if the dog owner carries insurance then you should be able to recover any damages that are awarded. If the owner doesn’t have insurance, then they are still required to pay damages – and your legal expenses – but if they aren’t able to pay then the situation becomes more complicated.
Of course, the best thing to do is to avoid being bitten in the first place. Don’t approach strange dogs – and particularly don’t allow your children to do this. Also, if a dog seems aggressive, don’t make eye contact with it since this may provoke it. Dogs can also attack if they are awakened suddenly, are in the middle of a meal, or are protecting their puppies.