When it comes to a dog bite case, the dog owners will usually be held liable. This means they need to pay for your medical bills. In some extraordinary circumstances, the dog’s owner won’t have to cover these bills and might not be found responsible.
A dog owner is held responsible (sometimes called strictly liable) for injuries caused by their dog, but it is their homeowner’s insurance policy that will actually pay for your medical costs or emergency room visit.
How Much Can I Sue for a Dog Bite?
Not all dog attack cases will have severe injuries or equate to large monetary damages. Typically, larger monetary awards occur if an animal attack:
Leaves visible scarring or disfigurement (these cases can involve settlements over $100,000)
Results in permanent disability (these cases can involve settlements over $200,000)
Requires emergency medical attention
Requires surgery or extended medical care
Results in the need for mental health therapy focused on victims of dog bites (such as PTSD counseling)
On average, people can expect around $40,000 for a severe but typical dog bite injury, though it all depends on the actual injuries and financial damages suffered. An injury settlement or award will generally reimburse an injury victim for their medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and other consequential damages.
If a person receives a settlement that includes reimbursement for medical bills, they may be required to pay back a health insurance company or pay outstanding medical bills (if any). Most of the money recovered will go to covering these medical bills.
Dog Bites in Small Claims Court
You can take your claim to small claims court without a lawyer ? but most counties/states cap small claims court settlements at $10,000 or less. If your injury is severe, or you think your medical bills will cost more, you may want to seek legal advice on filing a lawsuit.
Keep in mind: Small claims court requires you to prepare your case, present it, and take time off work to handle the research and court dates. For some people, paying an attorney to handle a dog bite liability case is cheaper in the long run, and an attorney tends to recover more money for you.
“Pain and Suffering” Compensation
Some people can also receive money for pain and suffering after a severe dog bite. Usually, this money (called “damages”) for pain and suffering will depend on:
The severity of the injury
The extent to which the recovery and injury disrupted a person’s regular life
There is no standard payment amount for pain and suffering. Your settlement offer will list an amount of money, and your personal injury attorney will accept or negotiate the offer. You can always ask for more or say you will not accept the offer.
Should I Sue After a Dog Bites Me?
After being bitten by a dog, you may be very upset to the point where you may consider suing just to get back at the owner or because it feels like you should take action.
But you should consider the pros and cons of going to court. If you decide suing is the right choice, you should consider when to bring legal action and if it is worth your time.
A pet owner’s homeowners or renters insurance provides coverage for dog bites, but not everyone has this insurance. If the pet owner responsible for your injuries is uninsured and has no assets, there may be no way to actually collect a judgment or receive money. The decision not to sue for this reason, however, should be carefully evaluated with the help of a dog bite attorney.
Also, if you decide not to sue, you may wish to re-evaluate that decision down the road. Small injuries can become worse over time, or injuries might not show up until weeks later. In any case, it is a good idea to get a medical evaluation of your injury. Then, consider speaking with a lawyer.
A dog bite lawyer is the right person to evaluate the value of your dog bite lawsuit. In general, bigger injuries (or more traumatizing situations) mean larger monetary settlements.
But be warned, most injury claims must be brought within one or two years, depending on your state’s statute of limitations.