Animal attacks are frightening experiences to go through and the resulting medical costs can be steep, so it’s not surprising that so many such incidents result in civil suits. Dog bites are the most common forms of animal attacks and many dog bite victims are left wondering if a personal injury lawsuit is worth the trouble. In addressing this subject, details about awards for damages caused by dog bites suggest that pursuing such a case is in the best interests of the victim.
Dog Bites Can Be Costly
For animal lovers, few things can replace the joy and companionship of a dog, commonly accepted to be man’s best friend. Most of the time, that dog may be docile and friendly, but dogs are animals and all animals will bite under the right circumstances. He may be frightened, protective of his home, or just having a bad day. Whatever the reason, dogs can and do bite.
A 2010 study revealed that the average dog bite cost its owner $26,166 in damages per lawsuit. The study, conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, also shared news that the number of insurance claims associated with dog bites slipped by 5% in 2010. These statistics don’t differentiate between breeds, so placing the blame at the paws of “aggressive” breeds is an erroneous assumption.
Dog bite cases are growing more expensive for dog owners, due to increasing medical costs, which influences higher settlements awarded by juries in civil suits. Additionally, there are more attorneys specializing in dog bite cases, as the number of personal injury cases continue to climb. Dog bite laws force the animals’ owners to take responsibility in cases where the dog has either caused an individual’s injuries or has caused damage to another’s property.
Civil suits centering around dog bites and damage caused by dogs can make the pet owner responsible for paying medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. However, many states offer a “one bite” allowance, establishing that an owner can’t be held responsible, until the dog has shown a propensity for aggression. While that first bite may be excused, a second incident won’t be forgiven as easily and may end up costing the owner thousands of dollars in damages. In fact, juries often award double or triple damages in cases where the dog has been aggressive in the past.
Proving a Dog Bite Case
While the concept of proving a dog bite case may seem fairly straightforward, it takes more than just showing that the plaintiff was bitten. The bite must be severe enough that it caused damages to the individual, so the primary focus of a jury in this kind of civil suit is in examining the medical bills. Any settlement will be largely based on how much medical treatment cost the victim, as a direct result of the bite.
A secondary consideration is the pain and suffering experienced by the victim, which is a more subjective form of damages. Typically, the amount awarded for pain and suffering is based on damages awarded to plaintiffs in similar dog bite cases within the same area. It usually boils down to a best guess, or best estimate, of the plaintiff’s suffering, so a bite that consists of little more than puncture wounds is unlikely to inspire a large cash award.
On the other hand, serious injuries, especially those resulting in physical disfigurement or permanent scarring, are likely to evoke more sympathy from a jury. Even where there may remain a question of liability, severe injuries are compelling enough that a jury is more likely to award higher damages to the plaintiff. For that reason, serious dog bite cases often result in an out of court settlement with the defendant hoping to avoid the higher penalty that a jury might award.
In the end, the amount a plaintiff can receive in a dog bite civil suit is dependent upon a number of factors. Primarily, the nature and severity of the bite is the main consideration, as is the animal’s history and the owner’s management of the pet. The only way to get a clearer assessment in a specific dog bite case is to consult with an attorney experienced in dealing with these kinds of civil suits.