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According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately four and a half million dog bites within the United States per year! Furthermore, about twenty percent of these dog bites become infected from the bacteria in the saliva of the dog which can make the puncture wounds much more serious, even life threatening. With statistics like these, it makes sense why so many people are asking, “Can I sue for a dog bite?”
The answer to this question is most likely, “yes!” However, each set of circumstances involving a dog bite is unique, and therefore, each case should be evaluated by a dog bite attorney who is familiar with the dog bite laws in the state in which the incident occurred. Keep in mind that dog bite law varies greatly state to state.
Some states, like New York and Texas, follow the “one bite rule” where a dog owner may not be as liable the first time a dog bites. However, even in these states, if it can be proven that the owner knew or should have known the dog would be likely to bite, he or she may still be liable for a first dog bite. So, for example, if the dog owner has an aggressive breed like a pit bull type dog or a rottweiler, he or she would be expected to take extra precautions around small children and the elderly. Likewise, if a dog had just undergone internal surgery and was very sensitive on the belly, the dog owner would be expected to warn visitors not to touch the dog’s belly and to be extra gentle around the dog.
Other states, like California and Florida, have “strict liability” laws for dog bites. In these states, dog owners are almost always held liable for dog bites if the person bitten was on the property legally and they did not do something out of the ordinary to provoke the dog. However, the percentage of liability may vary between cases depending on the exact circumstances. So, for example, a dog owner may be found seventy-five percent liable instead of one-hundred percent liable.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average cost of a dog bite claim in 2014 was $32,072 and this average amount continues to rise each year. However, many dog bite cases result in much higher payouts, especially if you are represented by a good dog bite attorney. For example, in southern California, one dog bite case paid out $200,000 for a situation involving facial lacerations. Another case paid out $151,000 for severe lacerations to the forearm.
You should never be hesitant to sue for a dog bite just because you know the dog owner. In almost all cases, a person’s renter’s insurance or home owner’s insurance will cover the costs, even if the dog bite occurs away from the home, such as at a park. You are entitled to recover all medical costs, including an estimate of FUTURE medical costs! You are also entitled to receive compensation for psychological counseling, lost income from time off work, lost clients if you are a professional, loss of future income due to disability or disfigurement, and for pain and suffering.
To determine if you have a valid case and how strong your case may be, it is important to get a free consultation from a lawyer, preferably one who has experience in previous dog bite cases.