In 2021, insurance companies paid almost $900 million to settle dog bite cases in the United States. The overall figure, as well as the per-claim average settlement figure, has increased significantly since 2010. Rising medical bills, as well as a better medical understanding of dog bite injuries, have contributed much to this increase. More on these injuries below.
A personal injury settlement is not just a matter of adding numbers together. Instead, a Marietta personal injury lawyer must build a strong, evidence-based claim. Only such a claim can establish all the elements in a complicated dog bite claim and refute the inevitable insurance company defenses. The result of all this hard work is maximum compensation for your serious injuries.
Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bite injuries usually begin with a knockdown. That is especially true if, as is often the case, a large dog, like a rottweiler, lunges at a small child. Knockdown injuries often include broken bones and head injuries.
A dog’s teeth usually cause deep puncture wounds and severe tearing lacerations. A dog’s teeth often pierce blood vessels and internal organs, causing massive bleeding that is hard to stop. Furthermore, dog bites usually cause severe tearing lacerations. The combination of these injuries usually means extensive and expensive treatment at a regional trauma center.
These physical wounds have high infection rates. Sometimes, a Marietta personal injury lawyer must file a separate claim to obtain compensation for infection-related injuries.
Dog bites also cause emotional wounds, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Like other kinds of brain injuries, PTSD is ordinarily permanent. At best, doctors can only treat the symptoms, like anger and flashbacks. These symptoms make it almost impossible for victims to function in day-to-day situations.
Dog bite laws are usually complex. They attempt to balance the interests of victims who need compensation and owners who want to give animals with checkered pasts a second chance. So, there are two basic alternatives in the Peach State:
- Dog Bite Statute: If an owner carelessly manages an animal or allows an animal to “go at liberty,” and that owner’s behavior leads to a bite injury, the owner is strictly liable for all damages, unless the victim provoked the animal.
- Scienter (Knowledge): In some states, this theory is known as the one-bite rule. If the owner knew the dog was potentially vicious, the owner could be liable for animal attack damages. Evidence of knowledge usually includes pre-bite behavior, like aggressive snarling and loud barking.
- Negligence Per Se: The plaintiff must prove that the animal was not at heel or on a leash as required by a local ordinance and that the defendant either carelessly managed the animal or allowed it to go at liberty. There’s no need to prove knowledge of viciousness.
Ordinary negligence, which is basically a lack of care, may also be available in some cases. In all these cases, compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Provocation is the most common defense in animal attack claims. It is even available in strict liability claims.
Georgia law defines provocation very narrowly in this context. Victims cannot accidentally provoke dogs by moving quickly or making loud noises. In fact, provocation is a physical act that is almost like torture, at least in this context. So, the provocation defense, although available, usually does not hold up in court.