Dog bites are probably among the most common and most significant types of personal injury cases that people in every demographic could be subject to. Dog bites make up a substantial percentage of claims made under homeowners insurance policies across the nation. No matter what the circumstances are surrounding a dog bite case, it can be a traumatic experience for anyone to undergo. It’s important to remember that even if you believe you may be at fault for getting a dog bite or sustaining an injury from a dog, you should avoid claiming liability. It’s critical not to admit fault to the dog owner’s insurance company, the dog owner, the property owner, or the other person’s attorney. Read on to find out if it’s worth it for you to file an insurance claim for a dog bite.
What Is the Process for a Dog Bite Insurance Claim?
Any homeowner will typically purchase homeowners insurance. If that homeowner has a pet, dog bite protection is also provided under their homeowner’s insurance. It is the responsibility of the insurance policyholder to disclose their pet and breed to the insurance company. As part of the homeowner’s coverage, most incidents where their dog bites another person will have liability coverage.
Many people avoid or hesitate to file a claim after a dog bite because they don’t want to pursue a case against a relative or neighbor. But the truth is that an insurance claim will be paid by the dog owner’s insurance. The claim is covered under homeowner’s insurance coverage, so there’s usually no money paid out of pocket by the dog owner.
Usually, the homeowner’s coverage is sufficient to cover the claim. Most homeowner insurance coverage policies have an adequate amount to pay for the types of injuries sustained in dog bite cases. So rather than an issue of having to pursue a case against a neighbor, relative, or friend, oftentimes, dog bite cases are really an issue of insurance coverage. There may be no insurance coverage in some unfortunate situations, or certain breeds are excluded from coverage. This is rare, and in most scenarios, the insurance will cover the cost of injuries from a dog bite.
What Is the Average Compensation for a Dog Bite?
Here are some facts from Insurance Information Institute regarding homeowner’s insurance liability claims:
- In 2020 alone, homeowners insurance companies paid $854 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries.
- The number of dog bite claims in the US decreased by 4.6% from 2019 to 2020.
- In 2019 there were 17,802 dog bite claims in the US.
- In 2020 the number of claims fell to 16,991.
- While the number of nationwide claims has decreased, the average cost per claim has increased by 12.3%.
- The average cost per claim in 2019 was $44,760.
- The average cost per claim in 2020 was $50,425.
- The national average cost per dog bite claim has increased 162% from 2003 to 2020.
- Increased claim costs can be attributed to higher medical costs, larger settlements, and greater awards given to plaintiffs by judgment and jury.
What Should I Do After Being Bit by a Dog?
Your main priority should be to get to a safe place after you’ve been bit by a dog. If the owner is present, it’s their responsibility to restrain their animal. If a stray or unattended dog has bitten you, do the best you can to get away from it. Or you or someone else who feels comfortable doing so can restrain the animal. If the dog is restrained, that is a good time to test for rabies and keep it from attacking anyone else.
Is It Worth Suing for a Dog Bite?
It may be difficult for the victim of a dog bite to come to an immediate decision to sue the dog’s owner for compensation. If the dog bite is severe, you’ve most likely sustained serious damages like medical bills, lost or reduced wages, and possibly even scarring or disfigurement. In these cases, you may have legal recourse.
If you received a minor injury from a dog bite or animal attack, you still might be eligible to recover compensation. Let’s say, for example, you experienced substantial emotional distress and mental anguish from the dog bite. You could then be eligible to receive retribution for the trauma and stress you endured from the dog bite.
There’s a good possibility that the victim of the dog bite won’t need to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner to recover damages. Instead, their attorney will provide legal advocacy in pursuing a legal claim against the dog owner’s insurance company. As explained earlier, most dog bite incidents will be covered under homeowners’ insurance policies.
While most dog bite claims get settled in court, you may need to file a lawsuit if you and your attorney are not able to reach a fair settlement agreement with the insurance company. If you decide to pursue legal action against the dog’s owner, it will be imperative to have an attorney who is experienced and qualified to take your case to trial.
Can I Claim Compensation for a Dog Bite?
The rights of a victim of a dog bite or animal attack will vary depending on which state they live in. Most states have laws that protect dog bite victims and give the option to sue the owner of the dog if they suffered harm from an animal.
Here are a few exceptions to the victim being allowed to pursue legal claims against the dog owner:
- If the victim of the dog bite or attack provoked the animal
- If the victim was trespassing on private property when the attack or bite took place
- If the victim was familiar with the animal and knew of the animal’s previous violent tendencies, or if the victim was aware that the dog had previously attacked someone else
If you have sufficient evidence to prove that the dog owner is liable for the attack and the injuries you received from their animal, your attorney may be able to reach a settlement offer outside of court. This means you may not have to actually go to trial. There are several different factors that need to be taken into account when valuing your settlement offer amount. For example, if your child was the victim of the dog bite, that may warrant a higher settlement amount. This is because a child is smaller in size and age and thus more likely to have significant injuries and lasting emotional trauma.