The short answer is: it depends. If you or a loved one were bitten and you feel the need, whether for the community’s safety or to pay for medical costs, that you should sue, then yes you will need an attorney. You should also hire an attorney if your dog bit someone and you believe they will bring legal action against you. In many scenarios, though, the bite will be minor enough and occur among friends, neighbors or acquaintances who have no interest in suing, in which case you will not need to hire an attorney.
The Facts About Dog Bites in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites each year. Approximately 850,000 of those bites end up requiring medical attention. Despite that figure, it’s estimated that only 15,000 to 16,000 result in some kind of settlement.1, 2 So the vast majority of the time no legal action is taken or insurance claim filed. But if you do run into a situation where legal representation is necessary, here’s what you should know.
I Was Bitten By a Dog
If you suffered a dog bite the first thing to do is assess the seriousness of the bite. If there is a deep puncture, tear or laceration that is significantly bleeding it’s likely in your best interest to seek medical attention. Generally, the biggest medical risk with dog bites is that of infection. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of dog bites become infected, so even if you didn’t think the bite was severe enough to warrant a trip to urgent care or an emergency room it’s still a good idea to be vigilant for infection.
Dog bites can potentially result in significant medical costs depending on the severity, as well as emotional trauma and even PTSD. If you end up accruing medical expenses as a result of a dog bite you should be compensated. You can try to file a claim against the dog owner’s homeowners or renters insurance policy. It’s never a bad idea to be represented by an attorney when you have to negotiate with an insurance company, as they are only interested in minimizing the claim’s payout.
Most dog bite attorneys will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t owe them anything for their services up front. Instead, once a settlement has been reached, the attorney will be compensated with a percentage of the settlement. An attorney will know how to gather evidence and present it during negotiations with the dog owners’ insurance company to fight for the highest possible settlement. If necessary a dog bite attorney can even take the case to court to fight for the money you need for treatment and recovery.
My Dog Bit Someone
If your dog bit someone, and you think it is likely they will take legal action against you or at least want compensation for the resulting medical treatments, it’s probably in your best interest to speak with an attorney. Generally, the skillset required for defending against a dog bite lawsuit is somewhat interchangeable with prosecuting one, so you can likely turn to a personal injury attorney for assistance. Because dog bites are often covered under your renters or homeowners insurance policy, the insurance company will generally pay for an attorney to defend their own interests and subsequently yours as well.
There are several factors that will affect the outcome of a case. Did you know your dog was a potential threat? Was it adequately restrained? Did the victim provoke your dog?
Comparative Negligence (Also Known as Contributory Negligence)
It’s not uncommon for there to be some degree of comparative negligence in a dog bite case. The fundamental idea is the victim took some action that makes them at least partially culpable for their injury. If the dog bite victim bringing the suit did something to provoke the dog into biting then they should be held at least partially responsible for any injuries they incurred. Either through negotiations between attorneys or as decided by the court, a certain percentage of blame is allotted to each party. If the full payout for the dog bite would be $10,000, and the dog bit victim is considered to be 25% responsible for provoking the bite, the settlement would then be $7,500.
Experienced Dog Bite Attorneys Serving the Sacramento Area
If you or a loved one have suffered a dog bite and you want or need to take legal action against the owner or any other responsible parties, the dog bite injury attorneys at Ashton & Price can assist. We encourage you to learn about your options and chances by requesting a free initial consultation. Just call 916-786-7787 to schedule your appointment today.