Dog attacks are often traumatic experiences for the dog bite victims. Dog attacks have increased by nearly 300% during the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately one in five dog attacks require medical attention. There are several common mistakes that dog bite victims should avoid to increase the likelihood of recovering compensation for their injuries. A dog bite is painful enough without having expensive medical bills to pay with no recourse.
1. Not Obtaining the Dog Owner’s Contact Information
The dog owner typically is the person responsible for the dog attack. The first person that a victim should consider as responsible for the attack is the dog owner. If the victim leaves the scene without obtaining the dog owner’s name and contact information, the injured party might never obtain the critical information. Homeowner insurance policies and renter insurance policies pay the majority of successful dog bite claims. Without the dog owner’s information, the victim will not know who to contact to make the claim.
Always obtain the dog owner’s information before leaving the scene unless your injury requires immediate medical attention that cannot wait. If the dog is on a walk with its owner when you are bit, take a picture of the dog owner’s driver’s license. If a dog runs loose from a gate or front door of a home, take a picture of the house and the address. Report the dog bite to the person occupying the home right away.
2. Not Reporting the Dog Attack to Authorities
Never agree with the dog owner to keep the dog bite secret. Always report the dog bite to the police. The police will create a report that records the dog bite attack. They will obtain pictures; interview the dog owner, witnesses and you; require quarantine of the dog and confirm rabies vaccination for the dog. All of these things are to protect you and the community. The report will provide useful information for your future claim against the dog owner and anyone else responsible for the dog attack.
In addition, the police report will prove that the dog was aggressive in the past if its bites another person in the future. Often, dog owners will lie and claim their dog was not aggressive and never bit before. A prior dog bite incident report from the police proves the dog owner is lying and proves the owner is strictly liable for the new dog bite. Reporting the incident to the police will help prevent future attacks and aid those unfortunate enough to get attacked by the same dog later.
Moreover, animal control may bring a dangerous dog claim against the dog owner depending on the seriousness of the attack. If a judge or jury finds that the dog is dangerous, the dog owner will have to euthanize the dog or follow strict rules. These rules include warning signs, always having the dog on a leash in public and purchasing $100,000 of insurance on the dog in case it hurts another person. Reporting the attack to authorities helps make the community a safer place.
3. Not Seeking Medical Attention Right Away
Seek medical attention right away if you are seriously injured. If you wait to obtain medical treatment, the defendant may claim that a different dog bit you. Moreover, the wound may become infected if it is not properly cleaned and treated. Medical providers are required to report dog bites to the police, so they will also aid you in reporting the dog attack to authorities.
4. Not Taking Pictures of the Wounds Before Receiving Medical Treatment
Pictures of dog bite wounds before medical treatment greatly enhance the value of the dog bite claim. Graphic pictures of a wound may exponentially increase the value of the claim. A jury will award more money for pain and suffering and disfigurement if shown pictures of a gaping wound. After a doctor stitches up the wound, the serious nature of the attack is diminished visually. Always take a picture of a wound before receiving medical care. Depending on the injury, the picture could increase the value of the claim by thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
5. Appearing too Eager to Settle
Insurance adjustors attempt to settle claims for as little as possible. The adjustor’s first offer is never his top offer unless it is for policy limits (which they rarely ever share). If you appear to eager to settle, the adjustor may reduce the offer even more. The adjustor often will offer money to pay the medical bills. This is insufficient. The dog bite victim is entitled to additional money for pain and suffering and disfigurement. Tell the adjustor that you want to wait until your wounds heal and medical treatment ends before settling the case.
6. Not Hiring an Attorney when the Injury is Serious
When you have a serious injury, attempting to resolve the claim on your own is a mistake. An experienced dog bite attorney will increase the settlement amount by more than the attorneys’ contingency fee. A dog bite victim representing himself will almost always leave money on the table. For example, a former client attempted to settle her claim on her own before hiring us. The insurance company made a top offer of \$10,000 to the dog bite victim when she attempted to settle the claim on her own. Instead of accepting the offer, she hired the O’Hara Law Firm. The case settled last year for $75,000. Even after deducting attorneys’ fees and case expenses, she recovered over $40,000. She recovered four times as much money in her pocket by hiring an attorney.
Contact the O’Hara Law Firm if you have been seriously injured by a dog.