How Serious Can a Dog Bite Be and When to Sue

It is hard to imagine that 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. every year. In fact, almost 1 out of 5 are considered serious dog bites leading to infection. As well, many serious dog bites require reconstructive surgery with 27,000 cases reported in 2018. Aggressive dog behavior requires legal action. While serious dog bites tend to be the ones that lead to lawsuits, any injury or trauma caused by aggressive dog behavior deserves some form of compensation from the dog owner. Here we look at just how serious a dog bite can be and when you should sue for aggressive dog behavior.

How Serious Can a Dog Bite Be Due to Infection?

As mentioned above, 1 out of 5 dog bites lead to infections caused by the bacteria in the dog’s mouth. This can include:

  • Staphylococcus
  • Pasteurella
  • Capnocytophaga
  • MRSA (although rare)

Once the skin is broken, germs penetrate the area and can lead to serious illness. That is why it is important to see your doctor following a dog bite.

How Serious Can a Dog Bite Be Due to Other Complications?

Other potential issues caused by serious dog bites and aggressive dog behavior include:

  • Nerve and muscle damage: A deep serious dog bite can damage nerves, muscles, and blood vessels even in very small puncture marks made by the teeth.
  • Broken bones: Large dogs can cause serious dog bites resulting in broken bones and fractures which are most common in the legs, feet, and hands.
  • Rabies: Rabies is a viral condition affecting the central nervous system which can lead to death if left untreated in just a few days. It causes aggressive dog behavior so you should be checked for rabies following your attack.
  • Tetanus: Tetanus is a bacterial disease, but is less common in children as there is a routine vaccine for this in the U.S. However, adults might not be up to date on their tetanus booster shots so could be at risk.
  • Scarring: A serious dog bite that tears the skin can lead to scarring.

Sadly, even death can occur due to a serious dog bite or an attack resulting from aggressive dog behavior. Although rare, children under 10 are the most at risk of dying as a result of a serious dog bite.

Can I Sue for a Dog Bite?

Yes, whether it is a serious dog bite or not, you can sue should you suffer a dog bite or trauma from aggressive dog behavior. Looking at the statistics, homeowners’ insurers paid liability claims to dog bite and dog-related injury victims to the tune of $797 million in 2019. As well, when looking at the average cost for serious dog bite claims, a rise of 134% between 2003 to 2019 has greatly increased dog bite-related medical costs. This has led to an increase in the size of settlements awarded to dog bite victims.

Average Pay Outs When You Sue for a Dog Bite

According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bite claims rose to 17,802 in 2019 from 17,297 in 2018. In hand with this increase, the cost per claim increased by 14.7% to $44,760 nationally. However, when looking at the numbers state by state, that number increases. The highest-paid out claims were in New York averaging $55,801.

Compensation Coverage When You Sue for a Dog Bite

There is a long list of damages victims of aggressive dog behavior are compensated for including:

  • Past, present, and future medical bills related to your dog bite
  • Damage to property that occurred during the attack such as glasses, purses, cell phones, etc.
  • Lost wages for any time you require off work to recover or receive treatment or assessment
  • Costs related to services required to manage your household such as cleaning services, meal preparation, etc. should you be unable to manage on your own
  • Permanent disability and disfigurement from a serious dog bite
  • Emotional distress caused by aggressive dog behavior
  • Any other costs related to your injuries

You can discuss your injuries and any damages with a lawyer. Your lawyer will seek a settlement based on your particular case and the event itself to determine what they will include when they sue for a dog bite.

How Settlements are Collected When You Sue for a Dog Bite

Once your lawyer files your lawsuit, there are two possible outcomes:

1. You collect your compensation when an out-of-court settlement is reached OR

2. You go to court for a court judgment if a settlement is not reached

Settlements are reached when a meeting is held with your dog bite lawyer, the dog owner/owner’s lawyer and the dog owner’s insurance company. Negotiations are made based on the compensation your lawyer requests on your behalf and what the insurance company/lawyer for the dog owner is willing to pay out. Compensation can be paid solely by the dog owner, by the insurance company, or a combination of both. Your lawyer will advise you when a settlement seems fair and you can decide together if you wish to settle out of court. If an agreement is not reached, you have to go to court.

The Court Process When You Sue for a Dog Bite

If you end up in court, your lawyer presents your case to a judge or jury. Your lawyer collects evidence of the event and the injuries suffered due to the attack. The judge or jury decides who they feel is at fault and will compensate the injured party based on the level of suffering and costs associated with the dog bite. If the dog owner feels the amount is too high, they can choose to appeal the case to reduce the damages owed.

Why Settle When You Sue for a Dog Bite?

A settlement is often your best scenario as it offers many benefits including:

  • Your case is resolved quickly
  • You avoid a drawn-out trial
  • You get your money quickly
  • You get a fair amount of money
  • You get closure from the incident so you can get on with your life
  • A judge or jury might determine you get less money than the settlement offers
  • Your settlement agreement is confidential

The main disadvantage of settling is you can also receive less money than going to court. But since the amount of the judgement is yet to be determined, you have no guarantee you would get more, and as mentioned you might actually get less. However, your lawyer will be able to advise you on when a settlement makes sense or when you might be more successful in court.

If you are the victim of aggressive dog behavior your first step is to seek medical attention. Next, call a lawyer to set the ball in motion to get the compensation you deserve.