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Have you recently been bitten by a dog? Are you thinking about filing a dog bite lawsuit? In 2020, there were nearly 17,000 dog bite claims filed.
The average cost per claim is $50,425, a 162 percent rise since 2003. However, while thousands of dog bite claims are filed each year, filing a dog bite lawsuit is not as straightforward as you may think.
Before you file your claim, there are some things you need to know. Read on to learn the top things people should know before filing dog bite lawsuits.
1. Not All Dog Bites Call for a Lawsuit
Just because you’ve been bitten by a dog, doesn’t mean you should automatically file a dog bite lawsuit. Before you decide to file, think about the time and effort that will go into making your case.
You may need to hire a lawyer, appear in court, gather medical records and other documents, and much more. All of the work that comes with filing a lawsuit may not be worth the time or money. This is especially the case if the dog just nipped you and you got a small cut.
However, if you’ve been seriously injured from a dog bite, then filing a lawsuit is usually the best course of action. However, keep in mind that small dog bites can sometimes have serious consequences. For example, if the dog doesn’t have its rabies shot and you need to seek rabies treatment, then filing a lawsuit may be a good idea.
2. Laws Vary by State
It’s also important to understand that dog bite laws vary by state. In most states, dog owners are financially responsible for bites, even if the owner wasn’t acting negligibly or didn’t know the dog could be dangerous.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Most states have something called a “strict liability” statute. This statute holds that the victim doesn’t need to prove that the owner had knowledge that the dog was dangerous.
The theory behind this statute is that anyone who owns a dog should be responsible for the damage that it causes. However, a few states have dog bite statutes that aren’t as strict. These statutes state that the dog owner is only responsible for the dog bite if it happened under a condition that was under the owner’s control.
For example, if an owner lets their dog roam outside freely, then they’ve created a situation in which they could’ve controlled their dog by keeping them fenced in. In some states, dog bite laws don’t apply if the dog was “on duty.” For example, if a police dog bites someone while on duty, they likely won’t be held liable.
Another important thing to note is that while most states limit strict liability to dogs, some states extend the strict liability to other states. States with extended strict liability laws include Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, and Illinois. This means if another pet besides a dog causes you harm, you have the right to file a lawsuit.
3. You Should Always Hire a Lawyer
No matter the extent of the dog bite, you should always plan to hire a lawyer if you’re going to file a dog bite lawsuit. Most people avoid hiring a dog bite lawyer because of the cost.
However, most dog bite attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you only need to pay the attorney if you receive compensation for your case. Generally, the contingency fee will be a percentage of your winnings, usually around 10% or so.
If your attorney loses the case, you don’t need to pay anything (save for administrative fees associated with researching your case). Hiring a dog bite attorney also provides the following benefits:
Access to a Skilled Negotiator
Typically, insurance companies will try to offer you a settlement for an amount that’s lower than what you deserve. When you hire an attorney, you’ll have someone by your side who is skilled in the art of negotiation and knows how to handle insurance companies. Usually, just the mention of a lawyer is enough for the insurance company to offer more money.
Understand State Dog Bite Laws
As we mentioned above, every state has different laws regarding dog bites. Navigating state laws can be especially tricky, but luckily, dog bite lawyers are up-to-date on all state-related statutes.
Access to Investigators
Just as is the case with any lawsuit, the burden of proof for a dog bite case lies on the prosecution. Innocent until proven guilty means it’s up to you to prove that you’re owed compensation for the dog bite. Simply showing evidence of a dog bite is not enough. When you hire a lawyer, you’ll have a team of investigators by your side who are skilled evidence collectors. They’ll know the exact type of evidence they need to gather to prove your case.
With everything that dog bite attorneys know about personal injury claims, hiring a lawyer is your best bet to winning your case. To find the best dog bite attorney, start by asking for recommendations from friends and family members.
If you can’t find any personal recommendations, head to the web to look up local attorneys.
Dog Bite Lawsuits: Are You Ready to Hire a Dog Bite Attorney?
Now that you’ve read this guide on dog bite lawsuits, it’s time for you to take action. First, decide if filing a lawsuit is really worth it. If you’ve decided it is worth it to file a lawsuit, start searching for attorneys in your area.
And, be sure to check back in with us for more informative articles like this one!