Dog Bite Cases and Compensation – What is my Claim Worth?
Each year, millions of people are bitten by dogs in the U.S., and nearly one-fifth of those victims require medical treatment or medical attention due to the dog bite. In many cases, children are the victims of dog bites and can often suffer very serious injuries. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that there are nearly 85 million dogs kept as pets in the U.S., and some dog bites are, unfortunately, inevitable.
What is my Dog Bite Claim Worth?
Many law firms suggest that dog bite claims may be worth around $50,000 for the average dog bite settlement, but the exact number can be difficult to know as most claims are settled outside of court and include confidentiality agreements as a part of the settlement. In 2020, State Farm reported paying out $157 million for 3,185 dog bite injuries – an average settlement amount of over $49,000 per case. That being said, if you are the victim of a dog attack or a dog bite, you may have a viable claim for compensation to cover your current and future medical bills and medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of consortium, and more. As DC, Maryland, and Virginia all have strict liability and/or negligence laws or statutes for dog bites, punitive damages are generally not awardable.
Many people are unaware of what their dog bite claim may be worth, so there are several factors to take into consideration.
How are the current medical bills and future anticipated medical bills?
One of the largest components of a dog bite settlement figure relates to any medical bills and expenses incurred due to the dog bite injuries. It is important to document any and all medical procedures or care received as a result of a dog bite. Experienced personal injury attorneys that specialize in dog bite claims can also help you to get an expert opinion about future medical bills. In many cases, fully recovering from a dog bite requires lengthy and enduring medical procedures that victims may not anticipate needing in the future, such as reconstructive surgery for disfigurement, multiple antibiotic treatments, rehabilitative therapy, therapy for emotional distress, preventative rabies treatment if a dog does not have proof of rabies vaccination, and more. Taking all of these into account can help in ascertaining the value of a dog bite claim.
Facial trauma is one of the most common injuries to occur after a dog bite or dog attack as lacerations and puncture wounds to the face can leave scars. Approximately 27,000 dog bite cases a year end up requiring reconstructive surgery, often to the face, scalp, and neck. Some of the common types of surgeries required include nasal reconstruction and skin grafts which can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Having your medical bills covered is, of course, critically important, but there is more to a dog bite injury than just medical costs – victims often endure non-economic damages such as incredible physical pain from the bite alone, as well as treatment (skin grafts, for example, can be incredibly painful and require a long time to heal). Moreover, emotional trauma regularly occurs as a result of an attack which can lead to a lifelong fear of dogs or even a fear of leaving the house. It can be difficult to quantify the value of pain and suffering, but in many cases, law firms, insurance companies, and even juries use what is called a “multiplier” to come up with this figure. For example, if medical bills total $20,000 and lost wages total $10,000, a multiplier of 3 (often it is between 1.5 and 4, depending on the circumstances of the case) for pain and suffering would lead to an amount of $90,000 for that pain and suffering. If your medical bills are low, a common strategy often used would be to not put in evidence of the medical bills to avoid “anchoring” the case value.
The circumstances used to judge pain and suffering are not carved in stone as they are meant to account for variability across different cases, but they can include factors such as permanent disability or disfigurement, whether the victim was an adult or child, what future medical treatment may look like, and other factors.
Lost Income and Wages
A victim of a serious dog bite may need to take time off of work to heal from the injuries and to receive medical care or attend physical therapy, which leads to lost income and wages. Dog bite claims regularly account for these lost wages as they are a tangible figure that can come into play. If you are in a hospital for days or weeks following a dog bite or dog attack, or medical treatment requires you to stay home and recover, lost income can end up being substantial.
Loss of Consortium
While somewhat less common, loss of consortium claims can occur as a result of a dog attack or dog bite. If the relationship between a dog bite victim and their spouse is negatively impacted, the couple may be eligible to receive compensation from a loss of companionship or intimacy (e.g., a victim of a dog bite suffers pain when being touched following the accident, or mental trauma leads to a couple growing apart). Whether you qualify for a loss of consortium claim varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
What Makes a Dog Bite Claim or Dog Bite Lawsuit Worth More?
The value of a dog bite claim is largely derived from the factors mentioned above – medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income/wages, and loss of consortium. As a result, the higher value of these factors, the larger the claim. Generally speaking, a higher settlement may be more likely if (1) the liability of the dog owner is clear and evident (e.g., an off-leash dog in a public place or in a yard that is not fenced-in); (2) there are no defenses the owner of the dog could raise (e.g., trespassing); (3) the victim is not at all at fault for their injuries (e.g., trying to play with a dog uninvited on a homeowner’s property); (4) there is a history of dog bite incidents from the offending dog; and (5) permanent disfigurement occurs.
Contact an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer or Dog Bite Attorney
If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney who handles personal injury lawsuits and dog bite cases and understands dog bite laws in the state where they practice. The team at Dross Berman understands how to navigate the personal injury and insurance claim process, represents you when dealing with insurance companies and renters or homeowners insurance policies, and helps get you or your loved one the compensation that is deserved. Our team of experienced attorneys has a thorough understanding of personal injury cases and dog bite statutes in Maryland, Virginia, and DC and works diligently to get our clients the best settlement offer possible or, if a trial is required, a favorable verdict. Contact us today to speak with one of our personal injury lawyers and receive a free consultation