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Should I Get a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?

Dog bites are a hazard that you may run into when you least expect it. In 2019, there were 17,802 insurance claims related to dog bites, and insurers paid out $797 million for dog-related injuries. This does not include sums that dog owners may have paid in cases where homeowner’s or renter’s insurance wasn’t in place or didn’t apply. More than half of dog bite injuries occur with an animal that the victim knows.

If you suffer from a dog bite or other dog-related injury through no fault of your own, you deserve compensation for the associated costs. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you receive the damages you deserve.

When Can I File a Law Suit for a Dog Bite?

Image via Unsplash by amyjoyhumphries

You can typically file a lawsuit for a dog bite when you’re injured through no fault of your own by an animal that’s not in your care. If you agree to care for an animal, even on a temporary basis, you typically cannot claim damages for any subsequent injury. An Illinois court found that a 10-year-old who agreed to care for his neighbor’s dog while they were out of town could not sue the owners, though he was bitten while caring for the animal.

If you’re not sure whether you can file a lawsuit for your case, you can request a free consultation from a lawyer to help you decide how to proceed.

Who is Liable for a Dog Bite?

The dog’s owner is the most obvious party to carry responsibility for a dog bite. However, in some cases, other individuals may be liable for the dog bite. If the dog is in someone else’s care, such as a dog sitter or kennel, that individual may be the responsible party. If the dog bite occurs on property that doesn’t belong to the dog’s owner, the landlord or other property owner could be held liable for the injury. If the dog’s owner is a minor, the minor’s parents are liable for the dog bite.

In some cases, the person who was bitten is legally responsible for their own injuries. It’s helpful to have a lawyer on your side who can assist you in determining the appropriate liability so you can pursue action, when warranted, against the proper individual and defend yourself from claims that you’re liable for the dog bite yourself. The law may consider you responsible for the dog bite if:

  • You were unlawfully present on private property.
  • You provoked the animal into biting with your behavior.
  • You were warned of the animal’s propensity for biting and did not heed those warnings.

How Do I Prove Liability for a Dog Bite?

It’s often difficult to prove that someone else is liable for your injury. An experienced dog bite lawyer is your best resource here. Dog bite laws vary by state. For example, in Michigan, the owner is liable for all damages that result from a bite when the victim is either on public property or lawfully present on private property. However, other states such as Mississippi and Idaho use the “one-bite rule” which states that the owner is only liable if they have prior knowledge of the dog’s propensity for biting.

Your lawyer will know what statutes are applicable in your area and what defenses might be used against you for the incident. In Michigan, liability laws are fairly strict, and the most likely defense is that the dog was provoked. In other states, the laws allow for more leniency. In Nebraska, for example, the owner is not liable if the injury occurred through the dog’s mischievousness or playfulness.

You can strengthen your case for another’s liability for the dog bite if the owner or responsible party:

  • Disobeyed the leash laws and ordinances in the location where the bite occurred.
  • Has knowledge of previous attacks.
  • Allowed the animal to roam at large.

Does Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

Many homeowner’s insurance policies will cover dog bite claims that occurred on the insured’s property. Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bites up to a liability limit between $100,000 and $300,000. This is often the easiest way to receive damages for your injury, as the individual is not responsible for paying.

A lawyer is helpful when you’re working with an insurance company because some insurance companies will attempt to deny the claim or give you a small settlement. A lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and make sure you get the best settlement possible.

How Can a Lawyer Help With a Dog Bite Case?

A lawyer is a valuable resource when you’re pursuing a dog bite case. You may not know the full extent of the damages where you can receive compensation. A lawyer will help you assess the case thoroughly, determine who is liable, and calculate the total sum of your damages. Your lawyer can assist you through every step of your case and may:

  • Collect evidence relevant to your dog bite case.
  • Investigate whether the dog was known to have dangerous propensities.
  • Prove liability for the dog bite.
  • Hire the necessary experts to prove your case.
  • Assess your damages accurately.
  • Cover the upfront costs of your lawsuit.
  • Ensure your claim is filed in a timely manner.
  • Help you understand the legal process.
  • Provide regular updates as your case progresses.

What Compensation Can I Expect in My Dog Bite Case?

Each case is unique, and your damages will vary greatly depending on the extent of your injuries and the severity of the attack. The size of settlements, jury awards, and judgments in dog bite cases has risen in recent years. The average cost paid out for a dog bite claim increased from $39,017 in 2018 to $44,760 in 2019.

Contact Goodman Acker for Dog Bite Cases

If you’re planning to file a claim with an insurance company or file a lawsuit against the animal’s owner for a dog bite or dog-related injury, our attorneys can help. We have a thorough understanding of all applicable Michigan laws and will help you get the best settlement possible. Contact Goodman Acker to get started.

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