There are millions of domestic pet dogs in the United States alone. With all of these dogs, comes accidents and dog bites. Over 800,000 people are affected by dogs every year in some way. Most of the affected people are injured by a dog bite, but other injuries often occur at the fault of dogs or their owners. Some of the other scenarios include, dogs knocking people over, running out into the street and causing car accidents, chasing people causing them to trip and fall, etc. In most cases, if you are injured by a dog bite or other related injury involving a dog, you have the right to hold the dog owner liable and take legal recourse – Some of the damages won can include:
- medical bills
- lost income
- pain & suffering
- property damage related to the accident, such as broken eye wear, jewelry or a damaged bicycle
- punitive damages, if the owner’s behavior was inappropriate
Victims, however, could potentially receive reduced compensation if they are partly to blame for their injuries, depending on local laws and individual circumstances. An example of this, could be the victim was bitten by a dog on private property that was properly leashed/tied down according to the law.
Dog bite injuries most commonly result in expenses related to medical costs, doctor bills, hospitalization, ambulance rides, prescription medication, physical therapy and even psychiatric treatments.
If the resulting injury exacerbates a pre-existing condition, or creates a “flow” of new injuries, the dog owner is typically liable for all injuries incurred. For example, if an old man has a bad hip, and a dog trips him and he falls down further injuring his hip, he may require treatment that of a younger person would not need. This scenario would fall under this rule, and the dog owner would be responsible for all injuries that could potentially result.
Pain and Suffering
There is often pain and suffering that comes in other forms after a dog bite or dog-related injury. Some of these other forms of suffering are psychological in nature. Some forms of suffering might be stress from dealing with all the side-effects of an injury, such as extended and inconvenient hospital stays, missed work or other financial obligations to name a few. Other ailments that can commonly arise, are depression, anxiety, insomnia, fear of dogs, and even PTSD. All of these symptoms arise that otherwise would not have, which warrants some form of compensation.
How is a fair amount of compensation determined? Here are a few examples of how these determinations are produced:
- Sometimes attorneys will use what’s called a “multiplier” – They multiply the total medical bills and lost wages. Typically, this is done by a factor ranging from 1.5 to 4 to determine the amount for pain and suffering. This is a rough estimate, so as a dog bite victim, you should not necessarily expect to receive this amount. Likewise, as the dog owner, you should not expect to pay this much, either.
- When a victim of a dog bite has permanent disability or disfigurement (such as bone loss, a lost hand, or permanent nerve damage) from the encounter with the dog, that will be a determining factor regarding pain and suffering. These injuries can and have led to long-term psychological issues such as, a loss of self-confidence, anxiety, social distancing and depression. The award for future pain and suffering, should be directly relative to the amount of permanent physical damages.
- Children sometimes experience more trauma regarding dog bites. Also, juries are typically more sympathetic towards children, resulting in more damages being paid than for that of adults.
- Parents are not entitled to damages for their own pain and suffering because their child has been involved and injured from a dog bite.
- If there is sufficient evidence that the victim may need future medical treatment, the jury will likely consider an award for future pain and suffering. However, there are no rules against victims receiving future awards just because there are not any anticipated future medical costs.
When a victim has to miss work for medical reasons, treatments, or physical therapy, they are entitled to reimbursement for any income they have lost. If the injury results in long-term disabilities and creates an inability to work in the future, they should also be compensated for future income, also referred to as a “loss in earning capacity”.
Loss of Consortium or Services
If the injuries had an impact on the relationship between dog-bite victims and their spouses, they may receive compensation for “loss of consortium,” which includes lost companionship or intimacy. Some states also allow compensation for the impact on the relationship between a parent and child when one of them is injured.
Under the “dangerous dog laws” in some areas, the owner of a dog that has been declared vicious, may have to pay double or even triple the damages if the dog actually injures somebody. In most cases, dog owners will be responsible for multiple damages if and when the dog bites or attacks somebody else.
If a dog owner is particularly careless, reckless or abusive, punitive damages can be awarded. An example of this could be a dog constantly being off a leash, or purposely allowing a vicious dog to run loose. In these cases, an extra award that goes above and beyond what is required for the victims compensation, may be awarded. This is done to send a “message” to the dog owner, and hopefully reverse the bad behavior being exhibited.