A dog bite attack can create a significant financial burden, but victims are entitled to compensation for the damages they've suffered. However, it's important to keep in mind that several different factors are used to determine a fair settlement amount for this type of personal injury claim.
About Dog Bite Personal Injury Claims
One recent study found that dog bite injuries account for almost one-third of all homeowner’s insurance claims, adding $570 million annually to insurance costs. The study also found that the average per case settlement was $37,214 in 2015, up 94 percent from $27,862 in 2013. This can be attributed to the increase in overall healthcare costs, as well as the tendency of dog bite victims to be more proactive in seeking legal representation.
California was the top state for dog bite claims, with 1,684 claims in 2015 and an average per claim settlement of $44,983. However, your individual claim may be worth more or less depending upon the circumstances of the case.
As with any other personal injury claim, dog bite victims are entitled to compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including emergency care, stitches, surgery, prescriptions, follow up care, and any anticipated injury-related future costs
- Lost wages, including a loss of future earning potential if the victim has been left permanently disabled
- Pain and suffering, including actual physical and emotional pain, disfigurement, scarring, emotional trauma, nightmares, and future fear of dogs.
Tallying Your Medical Bills
Medical bills are verified using statements from the hospital or physician’s office. If you're expected to have future medical expenses, testimony from your physician can be used to provide a ballpark figure for future medical expenses. In California, if the medical bills are paid for by a health insurance carrier for a lower amount than the amount billed, the lower amount is to be used for determining the medical expense.
Seeking Reimbursement for Lost Wages
Lost wages are figured based on your current earnings. This is easiest to calculate if you're an hourly employee, but salaried employees can divide their yearly salary by 2,080 (the equivalent of one year of full-time work) to obtain an hourly rate and calculate the value of their missed time using this number. If you receive overtime, fringe benefits, commissions, or other special payments in addition to your base wages, you'll need to provide separate documentation of this income.
If you are a stay-at-home parent you can have losses equal to the cost of hiring someone to perform the household labor you're no longer able to handle due to your injuries. This might include tasks such as childcare for an infant or toddler, transportation for school age children, housework, yard work, and cooking meals for the family.
Determining Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering damages refer to the damages which are not calculated by payments to someone, or loss of employment. These damages include physical and emotional pain, scarring, disfigurement, and other types of trauma from your dog bite injuries. This is the most difficult type of personal injury compensation to calculate, since trauma doesn't have a readily verifiable dollar value. Insurance companies often want to minimize the worth of a victim's pain and suffering. This is where an experienced dog bite attorney helps you get much more than an insurance company wants to pay for the injuries.
There is no particular method of calculating these more abstract damages. Each case differs by the nature and extent of the injuries, the location of the body where the damage is located, such as on the face, genitals, hands or neck, and whether the dog bite caused injuries to nerves. The value a dog bite lawyer brings to your case includes the lawyer’s ability to properly evaluate your case.
Available Insurance Cover for the Injury
Not every dog bite injury results in proper compensation or any compensation at all. Sometimes these bites occur from stray dogs, or dogs whose owners are unknown. There is no source of funds available to pay for the damages except for possible medical insurance provided by the dog bite victim. In other situations, some dog owners have no insurance and no money to pay for any damages suffered by a bite victim. These individuals might be renters with no insurance coverage or homeowners whose insurance coverage excluded dog bite injuries. If the dog owner has some money to pay for the injuries, the payment may be much less than the actual value of the claim.
In other circumstances, the dog owner is known, the owner has properly insured him or herself with proper insurance coverage and there is a source of money to pay for all the damages suffered. A dog bite lawyer works hard to find all sources of funds available to pay for dog bite damages before directing the dog bite victim on what action to pursue.
Protecting Your Right to Compensation
If you've been injured in dog bite attack, the most important step you can take to protect your right to compensation is enlisting the services of a skilled personal injury attorney. Inland Empire Law Group’s legal team is committed to assisting California residents in settling their dog bite claims. Free, no-obligation consultations are available at our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices. Call (909) 481-0100 for an appointment to start your right to recovery or submit confidentially your information on our website.