More than 4.5 million people in the United States got bit by a dog in 2023. Unfortunately, more than 800,000 of these incidents resulted in a need for medical treatment. If you or a loved one suffered an injury because of a dog bite, know your rights and what to expect if a bite incident occurs. Under state laws, victims can recover compensation by going to trial or accepting an out-of-court settlement when the offending dog's owner is found liable for a dog's bite. Generally, homeowners or renters insurance covers the bite victim's damages. The proposed settlement involves the insurer paying the bite victim a set amount of money in exchange for the victim giving up any further claims. A dog owner, however, is liable only for injuries that their state law mandates they must compensate. For this reason, it is imperative that you or your loved one who has been bitten by a dog must understand your rights and what compensation you may be entitled to receive in your case.
Average Dog Bite Settlement Amount
In general, your injuries and the laws of your state impact the compensation you are entitled to. Still, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the average settlement per insurance claim for a dog bite in 2023 was $64,555. This is a 32% increase compared with the prior year. An estimated $1.13 billion was paid out to victims due to dog bite incidents during 2023. However, only some providers provide dog bite coverage or require you to pay extra for that addition.
You can reach a reasonable settlement amount by hiring a personal injury attorney. To assess the severity of a dog's biting problems, professionals refer to a scale with six levels of dog bites to determine the severity and investigate a variety of factors surrounding the incident to determine compensation amounts.
Factors That Influence Personal Injury Settlement Amounts
Because each dog bite situation differs, settlement amounts can vary depending on the severity of injuries, liability, and negligence and whether the case goes to trial or is settled with a third party. A lawyer can assist you in understanding your rights in your lawsuit and ensure that they are adhered to during the litigation process.
1. Medical Bills Incurred Due to the Bite.
It would be best to document any medical bills, including emergency care, stitches, surgery, prescriptions, follow-up care, and any anticipated injury-related future costs, verified by a hospital or physician's office. Testimony from a physician is crucial because it can be used to provide significant evidence and an estimated figure for future medical expenses.
2. State Laws
While insurance can cover costs, you cannot assume that dog bite coverage will be automatically included in your homeowner's or renter's insurance. Some providers do not have dog bite protection in their mandatory coverage, or they may require you to pay an extra cost for that addition. In "one-bite" states where owners can't be held accountable without proof of negligence, it can be more challenging for dog-bite victims to prove they are entitled to damages. However, half of the states have statutes that impose strict liability on dog owners, and the injured person only has to show that a dog caused their injury. The dog bite victim must not have been trespassing and had to have a legal right to be where they were.
3. Lost wages and lost earning power
If the bite injury is severe enough, it could prevent you or a loved one from working during the healing process. If so, you or your attorney should calculate proper compensation for lost wages (and potentially for lost earning power in more severe cases of a permanently disabling injury) should be included in your claim. Lost wages are figured based on your current earnings. Compensation is easiest to calculate if you're an hourly employee. Still, salaried employees can divide their yearly salary by 2,080 (the equivalent of one year of full-time work) to obtain an hourly rate and calculate the value of their missed time using this number.
4. Pain and suffering
Some of the injuries sustained from dog bites are so severe that victims become disabled in some capacity, and these can be considered life-changing physical and emotional pain. This pain can include disfigurement and scarring, emotional trauma, nightmares, and PTSD. Victims may also experience a fear of dogs, making it hard to go outside. While it can be hard to value pain and suffering, lawyers and insurance companies often do when negotiating a settlement. Still, the amounts that victims receive for pain and suffering can vary.
5. Emotional distress
Some instances of dog bites are vicious and severe, and you (or a loved one) may suffer significant emotional distress and even PTSD. It may be necessary to seek out a mental health professional to have your anguish documented so that you can receive appropriate compensation.
How To Recover Compensation
While hiring an attorney is not required to settle, a personal injury attorney could get you a larger settlement or resolve your case faster. A lawyer can advise you during the negotiation process and assist you in recovering evidence and proving your claim against the dog's owner in court to maximize the compensation you receive. In many cases, The protection you need to receive compensation could already be in your homeowner's or renter's. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the settlement amounts for homeowner's and renter's policies usually fall from $100,000 to $300,000. However, an attorney will help you decipher these options if you still need to get or do not currently have these insurance types. At Expertise, we’re here to make the process of finding the right personal attorney easier. Click here to view Expertise.com’s personal injury attorney directory and match with your attorney today.
Homeowners and Renter’s Insurance
In many cases, The protection you need to receive compensation could already be in the dog owner's homeowner's or renter's insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the settlement amounts for homeowner's and renter's policies usually fall from $100,000 to $300,000.
Homeowners Without Insurance
You can still file a dog bite lawsuit if the owner has no insurance. However, it is more challenging to recover compensation, even if the owner is held liable. If you do not have these insurance types, or you’re a victim of a dog bite who’s owner doesn’t have insurance, hiring a personal injury attorney will help you decipher your options.
Attorney Responsibility and Defenses
If you or a loved one are pursuing a dog bite lawsuit, compensation can significantly affect the healing process. Hiring a personal injury attorney can result in monetary awards that cover medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages. Knowing which laws, damages, and defenses apply to your situation can be difficult and is often why most folks see the advice of a lawyer. An experienced dog bite lawyer will know which arguments an opposing attorney might use against you. Experienced attorneys who handle personal injury cases will best know how to combat those defenses.
The following defenses could (but are not limited to) apply to your case:
1. Comparative Negligence or Assumption of Risk
Sometimes, the dog's owner may argue that the injured party is partially responsible for their damages. For instance, if the owner provided acceptable cautions about their dog, but the injured party disregarded those warnings, the reimbursement for medical care could be reduced or denied.
Contrary to common belief, trespassers have some legal protections if they can prove they either received permission to be where the attack occurred or accidentally came upon the property. Your state's dog bite statutes may demand that the victim prove they had permission to be in a location where they were bit. But under those rules, if a person cannot prove they had a valid reason to trespass, they most likely cannot recover damages for a dog bite that occurs while trespassing.
Another common defense to determine liability is if the injured person provokes the dog before the attack. Should a person confront, corner, or harass a dog in some states, the dog owner will not have to pay damages in a dog bite lawsuit; this is why it is crucial to intimately know the dog bite laws in your state.
Step into the world of Expertise.com, your go-to hub for credible insights. We don't take accuracy lightly around here. Our squad of expert reviewers, each a maestro in their field, has given the green light to every single article you'll find. From rigorous fact-checking to meticulous evaluations of service providers, we've got it all covered. So feel free to dive in and explore. The information you'll uncover has been stamped with the seal of approval by our top-notch experts.