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When Should You Sue Over Dog Bite Injuries?

After being bitten by someone else's dog, you'll probably be contacted by the dog owner, or his or her insurance company, to discuss a settlement to compensate you for your dog bite injuries. This article discusses when you should sue and when you should accept a settlement.

Type of Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries

State personal injury laws and state dog bite laws give accident victims-including those who have suffered dog bite injuries-the right to collect damages, or compensation, for injuries that are someone else's fault.

Damages are designed to compensate you for:

  • Past, present, and future medical bills for treatment related to your dog bite injuries
  • The repair or replacement of any property (such as glasses or clothing) that was damaged or destroyed when you were bitten
  • Lost wages for time off from work (including time spent going to doctor's appointments and physical therapy)
  • The cost of hiring someone to do household chores that you're unable to do because of your injury
  • Permanent disability and disfigurement stemming from the dog bite
  • Emotional distress stemming from the dog bite
  • Any other costs you've incurred as a result of your injuries

There are two ways in which you can collect this compensation: in an out-of-court settlement or in a court judgment.

How Dog Bite Injury Compensation Is Determined

When you settle a case, you and the dog owner, plus the dog owner's insurance company and your dog bite attorneys, privately negotiate an agreement to compensate you for your injuries. The money is paid by either the dog owner, his or her insurance company, or both the owner and insurance company.

In a court judgment, your case is presented to a judge or jury who listen to the evidence, decide who is to blame, and can order the party at fault to compensate the injured party. They will also decide how much you are owed in damages though this amount can be adjusted by the judge or the losing party can appeal the case in an effort to have the damages reduced.

Settling a case offers several advantages:

  • It resolves your case more quickly than if you went to trial
  • You receive money more quickly than if you went to trial, and you can use that to pay injury-related bills
  • You can get emotional closure and start to move on after the accident
  • Your attorney's fees and expenses may be lower
  • You have the certainty of knowing how much money you'll receive
  • Settlement agreements can remain confidential

The primary disadvantage to settling your case is that you may ultimately receive less money than if you'd gone to trial. However, there's no guarantee you would have received more had you gone to court.

The advantages to going to trial include:

  • You may feel a greater emotional satisfaction if you win the case
  • There's a chance you'll receive a larger award than if you settled the case

Going to trial, however, has its disadvantages:

  • There is no guarantee that you'll win your case or receive a larger award than if you settled
  • Your attorney's fees and expenses may be higher than if you settled
  • The verdict and judgment will be publicly available
  • It can take a long time to schedule and prepare for a trial

If you've hired an experienced dog bite lawyer, he or she should be able to help you evaluate your settlement offer and decide whether it fairly compensates you for your dog bite attorneys. Ask your lawyer to give you the advantages and disadvantages of setting versus going to court in your specific case. There may be reason unique to your situation that argues strongly in favor of settling or strongly in favor of litigation.

Most people who end up suing for compensation do so because they are unable to reach a settlement agreement in their dog bite case.