No one ever wants to think about what would happen if their dog bit someone – it could mean everything from paying out hospital bills to the extreme of seeing the dog put down in certain cases. Luckily, most of the time a simple dog bite does not result in the extreme end – and in many cases, losses are never recovered.
However, in cases where you intend to file a lawsuit or send try to settle out of court for the costs of medical care after a dog bite then you will want to know if you can really hold the owner liable. In many cases, the owner of the dog is held liable if their dog has bitten someone – and especially if the dog is a “repeat offender.”
In certain cases, such as trespassing, burglary, or if provoked, the person who was bitten by the dog may be held liable for their own injuries.
What is Strict Liability?
Some states have chosen to enact “dog bite” statutes, which are specific laws surrounding the liability for dog bites. In most cases, this creates a form of strict liability – meaning the owner of the dog is held liable, even if there was nothing they could have done to prevent the bite from happening. It also means that the owner is liable only if the injured party was legally allowed to be where they were when the bite occurred, and they did not provoke the dog in any way.
It used to be that most states operated on a “one-bite” law – which meant that the owner was not liable for the first dog bite unless they knew the dog had a history of aggression, was a breed considered to be aggressive, or if there was a way to prevent the bite from happening. (An example of a case where prevention may be possible is if the dog has been injured or is easily scared and reacts aggressively, and the owner fails to warn someone of that fact.)
Who Pays Out the Settlement?
One reason that so few dog bite cases end up being settled, whether in court or out of court, is because people don’t want to sue someone “for all their worth” over a dog bite. However, in many cases, it ends up being insurance companies who pay for any medical costs incurred from the dog bite. Homeowners insurance will, in many cases, cover at least one dog-bite on the property or by a dog in the home depending on where they were at when the bite occurred.
When homeowner’s insurance won’t cover the cost of a dog bite settlement, your car insurance, renters insurance, or even pet insurance may be able to help you cover these costs. If no insurance company will cover them, or the dog owner does not have insurance to fall back on, then you may still be suing them for damages directly – but if you were injured at the hand of an unprovoked animal then you should not have to cover these costs alone, which depending on severity can get expensive.
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog and want to know if you can sue for medical costs and damages – or your dog has recently bitten someone and you want to know if you are likely to be held liable or need representation in court, then reach out to a personal injury attorney right away.