Legal Professional?
Build Your Business

Dog Bite Victim: When to Sue and When to Settle



Every year there are about 800,000 dog bite victims. The cost of dog bites exceeds $1 billion a year. If you are a dog bite victim and have incurred expenses because of your injuries, then you may want to consider initiating a lawsuit against the dog owner.

Dog bites can cause serious injury. Because of the bacteria that live within a dog's mouth, a bite can become infected. Left untreated, dog bite infections could even become fatal. In fact, every year about 12 dog bite victims die from their wounds.

Dog Bites and the Law

If you are a dog bite victim, then you have the right to sue. The type of lawsuit you will file to recoup costs as a result of a dog bite is known as a personal injury lawsuit.

Dog bite laws will vary from state to state, so it is important for you to understand your state's laws. Some states use what is known as strict liability laws while others use "one bite" laws. In addition, most states view a dog owner's negligence as a cause of action to file a lawsuit in a dog bite injury case.

Strict liability means that the dog owner is liable for nearly any injury his dog causes. There are some key exceptions to this rule, however. If the dog bite victim was trespassing on private property or provoked the dog into attacking, then the dog owner might not be liable and filing a lawsuit would not be a good idea. In addition, if the dog bite victim is a veterinarian and was injured while treating a dog, he or she may not be able to successfully sue the dog owner.

"One bite" laws, on the other hand, forgive a dog's first attack. This means, in most circumstances, if you are the dog's first victim, you will not have grounds to file a case. However, if you are not the first person to be attacked, then you may be able to hold the owner liable. You may also be able to hold the owner responsible if he or she had reason to believe the dog was dangerous.

Finally, negligence may allow you to file suit even if your case does not meet the criteria for strict liability and one-bite laws. If the dog owner's actions were careless or reckless and these actions resulted in the dog injuring you, then you may have a strong case. For example, if the dog's owner leaves the gate of the dog's fence open or blatantly ignores leash laws, then the owner might be found negligent.

Dog Bite Victim Lawyers

If you do sustain an injury after a dog bite, you will want to seek out a personal injury lawyer who has experience working with dog bite victims.

Your lawyer will ask you for a detailed account of how the accident occurred and may ask to speak to any witnesses who saw the accident happen. He will also want to see copies of your medical records and medical bills, as well as photos of your injuries.

Dog Bite Lawsuits

Once the lawyer has gathered enough evidence, he or she will then draft a demand letter. This demand letter will describe your injuries, state that you intend to file a lawsuit, provide the argument for your case, and state a settlement amount you are seeking in order to avoid a trial. A dog bite victim will probably want to avoid going to trial since it can be a long and expensive process.

The dog owner and his attorney may accept your settlement offer. If they accept it immediately without negotiation, you may want to settle your case to avoid trial. However, if they come back with a counteroffer that is lower than your settlement proposal, you may want to consult your lawyer and have him or her negotiate a higher amount.

If after a series of negotiations no agreement can be made, then you should talk to your lawyer about formally filing a lawsuit.