How Does a Dog Bite Lawsuit Work?

It’s estimated that there are roughly 4.5 million dog bites in the US every year. However, only a small fraction of these victims end up filing claims or taking legal action. As dog bite lawyers, we handle these types of cases and wanted to provide some general information on how a dog bite lawsuit works.

Here are a few of the topics this post will cover:

  • How to know if you have a case
  • Where will the money come from?
  • When the dog’s owner is your friend
  • Costs a dog bite settlement can help cover
  • What happens with the dog?
  • Is it necessary to involve an injury attorney?

Do You Have a Dog Bite Case?

Just because a dog has bitten you does not mean you have grounds to seek compensation. There are a few elements that must be present.

A valid dog bite case will have the following components:

  • Evidence. You will need ample proof that you were injured. Doctor reports and medical bills are essential. Other evidence might include witness statements, video surveillance, and any past records about the dog.
  • Negligence. There must have been a failure on the part of the dog’s owner to keep their dog secure. For instance, suppose the owner knew the dog was dangerous and permitted it to run off-leash anyways. If you were injured as a result, the owner is most likely negligent.
  • Statute of limitations. In the State of Washington, you have three years to file a claim.
  • Ability of negligent party to pay. Unfortunately, there are times when you can’t seek compensation because there’s nowhere to seek compensation from. An example of this would be a stray dog with no apparent owner.

The circumstances surrounding what happened can make a big difference as to whether you have a case or not. Since each story is different, you should have an attorney experienced in handling dog bite cases here what happened.

Where Does the Money Come from in a Dog Bite Settlement?

Most of the time, the money in a dog bite settlement will come from the dog owner’s home or renter’s insurance policy. Less commonly, if a business or city is found responsible, other insurance policies may come into play.

In other words, most dog bite cases never turn into lawsuits. Instead, a settlement is usually negotiated between the victim and the dog owner’s insurance company. If you’ve retained a lawyer, he or she will handle these negotiations on your behalf. From there, you have the final say whether to accept an offer.

So, when might things turn into a lawsuit? In one of two situations:

  1. If the insurance company is failing to make a fair offer and negotiations are stalling, or
  2. If your injuries are beyond the insurance policy limits.

While very few dog bite cases end up in court, some of the more serious cases do. This is another reason to consider reaching out to an experienced attorney, particularly if you’re facing very high medical bills.

What if the Dog’s Owner is Your Friend?

It’s not uncommon for the dog’s owner to be your friend, family member, or neighbor. In fact, statistics show that most dog bites come from a dog that was known to the victim. This is a delicate situation. You may have conflicting feelings about seeking compensation. Won’t this harm your relationship?

Remember, in most cases, your friend’s insurance policy can cover your costs. When this happens, they won’t pay out of pocket for your care. Many times, a true friend also cares enough about the relationship to want to do all they can to help you recover.

Our attorneys have dealt with this situation before and ensure all communications are carefully and respectfully carried out. If you are working with an attorney, always make sure to express your wishes and concerns.

When to call a Dog Bite Lawyer for Help

What Does a Dog Bite Settlement Cover?

A settlement covers two primary categories of damages: economic and non-economic. Think of economic damages as the financial expenses related to your injury. For instance, medical bills and missed wages. Non-economic damages are ways apart from your finances you’ve been harmed. Pain and suffering are examples.

Chances are high that a dog bite victim has suffered many harms:

  • Medical treatment
  • Future medical costs, such as cosmetic surgery
  • Therapy
  • Missed wages
  • Disfigurement and disability
  • Anxiety, flashbacks, PTSD
  • Pain and suffering

Dog bite settlements can vary wildly depending on the type and severity of injury, the age of the victim, and insurance policy limits. Don’t be swayed by lawyers’ websites that claim they can “calculate” a value on the spot. The true value of a case comes through careful evaluation, as all the facts become known.

What Will Happen to the Dog that Bit Me?

It’s not easy to say what will happen to the dog that bit you. There are several different actions that animal control might take, ranging from fines to euthanizing the animal.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Was it a first offense?
  • How severe was the attack?
  • Did the owner have prior knowledge of the animal being dangerous?
  • What are the city regulations involving animal bites?

For additional information, you might want to read our post on Dog Bite Laws for Washington State.

When Should I Call an Attorney?

We hope we’ve made a strong case throughout this blog post for reaching out to an attorney when you’re dealing with a dog bite. There are several distinct advantages of using an attorney versus going it alone.

Some of those include:

  • Communication with the dog’s owner. This can be stressful for victims, even if the owner is a friend. A compassionate attorney can act as a go-between, taking this responsibility off your shoulders.
  • Verify all potential source of funds. Sometimes, victims can file claims against more than one insurance policy. For instance, a dog owner may have a homeowner’s insurance policy and an umbrella policy. This can make a huge difference in your final settlement offer.
  • Help overcome common defenses. There are times when the dog owner will try to place blame on you. For instance, they may say you provoked the dog or that they warned you because they placed a sign on their fence. We can work to overcome these defenses.
  • Negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company. Ultimately, our job is to make sure your settlement fairly addresses all your damages. Usually, we can address through the negotiation process, but there are times when a lawsuit becomes the right option. No matter what, having an attorney on your side gives you legal options that would be trickier to navigate on your own.

If you’re worried about how much it will cost to hire a dog bite attorney, don’t be. We work on a contingency fee basis which means you only pay us if we win your settlement. There’s nothing to pay upfront.

Want to Talk to a Dog Bite Lawyer?

Our Tacoma based dog bite lawyers are happy to speak with you at no cost. We can hear what happened and let you know if we think you have a case. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

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