Bart is going to live on a farm,” my parents told us when my 4 year old sister came home from the hospital. My sister was lucky, the dog bite was under her jaw line and her scar would be hidden from plain view. My parents didn’t have to be trained in the law to know that getting rid of that dog was the only option.
Dog attacks are unfortunately a common occurrence across the country. The Insurance Information Institute reports almost 16,500 dog bite claims in 2012, each costing an average of almost $30,000. Dog bites can cause disfiguring injuries, and even minor bites can leave lasting scars. On top of that, bites can cause severe emotional trauma, lasting long after the physical wounds have healed.
Bite victims are often small children who underestimate the danger of strange dogs.
If you or your child is a victim of a dog bite, you may be reluctant to hire an attorney right away. After all, the dog owner is, more often than not, a neighbor or a friend. But even those close to you may have insurance available to foot the bill to treat the injuries. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t make this process easy, and a mishandled claim can leave your family paying thousands, and you or your love one scarred for life.
You need an advocate, someone that will deal with the dog owner and the insurance company. The right attorney can guide you through this process, keeping insurance woes and unexpected medical costs from compounding the existing pain and trauma.
How to respond to a dog bite
After seeking immediate medical attention, it is important to determine ownership of the dog, as their insurance may play a role in covering your damages. Ownership, location, and the dog’s history are all helpful factors in the claim process, and should be ascertained immediately after the incident.
Homeowners insurance can cover liability from dog bites injuries — as well as other common household pets — as long as they occur on the owners’ property. These insurance policies usually cover anywhere from $100,000 – $300,000 in damages. There are caveats of course, one of them being they will only cover the first incident in which an animal causes injury.
If the dog has been violent before, and if the owner was aware of the dog’s propensity towards violence, then the animal may no longer be covered, and the liability may be placed entirely on the owner. In the eyes of the law, the dog owner may be found to be criminally negligent if they know their animal is dangerous, but don’t secure it properly. In addition, certain insurance companies will refuse to cover specific breeds, such as Rottweilers or Pit Bulls.
Some types of homeowners insurance will also cover animal attacks that happen in the owner’s car — or, for example, if the dog is in the back of a pickup truck and bites a passerby — although such incidents may also be covered by automobile insurance. In cases where the owner has both automobile insurance and homeowner’s insurance, the companies may spiral into an argument over who pays. If you have an attorney in your corner who is experienced with insurance claims, they will fight to speed up this process.
If the pet owner has no applicable insurance, then every other potential source of compensation must be explored. It is unfair to place all of the financial burden on the victim of the dog attack. The legal process alone can cause further turmoil when you’re most vulnerable. If a man’s best friend betrays you, it’s time to consult with an experienced dog bite personal injury attorney before assuming an insurance company will take care of everything.