When a Dog Bites: Who's Financially Responsible?

dog bites who is financially responsible

Taking care of one's family, especially in an economy that's still recovering, can often prove to be a difficult task. Sadly, this task can be made even more harrowing if unexpected financial burdens suddenly arise. Many people learn this harsh lesson when bitten by a dog. While canines are meant to be "man's best friend," there are still around 4.5 million dog bite victims in America every single year. In these instances, it's important to understand exactly who is responsible for the attack, and once this is done, it may just be possible to ensure that the bite doesn't lead to a financial burden.

Who is Responsible?

The most important thing to note about dog bite liability is the fact that dog bite laws will always vary by state. In fact, this is true of just about any law that's ever been passed in America. Some states will immediately consider the dog owner to be negligent in the event. In other states, however, there is something known as the 'one bite rule' that could negate the owner from being held responsible if their dog has never shown any violent tendencies before.

This isn't to say, though, that a person can't recover financial compensation with the right legal representation. It should also be noted that there are instances, even in states that immediately hold dog owners responsible, where they may not be held legally liable for injuries sustained by a dog bite. If a person was bitten while taunting an animal, for instance, the courts will likely throw out any case they file. In the majority of cases, however, a dog owner whose negligence leads to a dog attack, such as not having their animal on a leash, will be held financially liable for at least the medical bills related to the bite.

When Dog Owners Won't Pay

Luckily, many homeowners have insurance policies that will pay for the medical bills of people who have been attacked by their dogs. When they don't have these policies, or refuse to take responsibility for their dog's actions, the whole situation can become much more difficult to handle. When this does occur, however, a person should immediately seek out a lawyer.

Personal injury attorneys who have previously dealt with dog bite cases have the experience that's vital in these cases. One Pasadena personal injury lawyer, Pius Joseph, states "Personal injury does not mean just injury to the body, but it also means injury to the person's state of mind and feelings". They understand a state's specific laws related to dog bites.  Additionally, they understand just how much a victim should be seeking in compensation, and they'll know how much in general damages, such as pain and suffering, should be sought. When an attorney becomes involved, it gets much more difficult for a homeowner's insurer to try to dodge a fair settlement.

Staying Safe

There are a variety of ways that a person can keep safe when it comes to overly aggressive canines. First and foremost, it's imperative to immediately seek out medical attention following a dog bite, and this is the case even if the injury isn't too severe.  In a recent case, a man was bitten by a pit bull and then refused treatment when police arrived. Sadly, this can lead to a serious infection, and if the individual later tried to sue the dog's owner, it could be more difficult to receive compensation based on this fact. In these instances, a person's only chance of fair compensation will likely be speaking with an attorney.

Even more importantly, however, is avoiding a dog bite altogether. It's first important to recognize aggressive behaviors, such as stiff tails, tensed bodies, furrowed brows or pulled back ears, as dangerous warning signs. If any of these or other aggressive behaviors are occurring, it's imperative for a person to stay motionless, avoid eye contact and keep their hands at their sides. If the dog does make a move, a person can "feed" their bike, purse, jacket or anything else they have on them to the dog in an effort to make the animal back off.

Being bitten by a dog can be both physically and psychologically damaging, but it doesn't have to prove financially ruinous. For those who take the appropriate proactive steps after they or a loved one experience an attack, it is possible to quickly get back on with their lives. Just as Pasadena personal injury lawyer, Pius Joseph stated above, the aftermath will undoubtedly be difficult, but it is in no way impossible with a strong mental fortitude.


    • Lisa Coleman

      Lisa Coleman 02/24/2014 8:29 a.m. #

      Great tips! :) I had a neighbor's dog bite my son once who refused to pay for the medical bills. He only had to have stitches but the bills were high. In the end with persistence they paid, but only when contacted by a lawyer. (Fortunately we had a friend who made the call and did not charge us) All turned out well in the end. :)

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2014 10:39 a.m. #

        The bite must have hurt. I remember that happening to me as a kid too. Good thing you got it all sorted out.

    • Michelle

      Michelle 02/24/2014 9:18 a.m. #

      I have two dogs, with one being around 80 to 90 pounds. Occasionally, I look outside and I see complete strangers leaning over my fence and petting the bigger one. She would never bite, but I have been thinking about putting a sign there because I would hate to be sued if someone was leaning over my fence and she bit them. In this case it would be completely their fault, but just the hassle wouldn't be fun!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2014 10:41 a.m. #

        I agree Michelle, the hassle would not be fun, and nine times out of ten, the dog is blamed, no matter how gentle they normally are. And that would be so unfortunate.
        A big BEWARE of DOG sign should do the trick.

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 02/24/2014 10:49 a.m. #

      Good tips, Sicorra. While you hope to never have to deal with this either as a dog owner or some who gets hurt from one, the reality is it can happen, even with normally friendly dogs. It's good to know your responsibility and rights because unfortunately if you are bit and need medical attention, it can get expensive.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2014 10:43 a.m. #

        Yes, it can quickly get expensive and depending on the incident, it may cause on-going medial issues too.

        I do always feel sorry for the dogs though, because their owners should protect them too by putting them on a proper leash and keeping them safe as well.

    • Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

      Tara @ Streets Ahead Living 02/24/2014 12:53 p.m. #

      People underestimate the power of "pain and suffering". As you say, it's not just the medical bills that you can be sued for, but the "pain and suffering" a dog bite did to an adult. Because it's something that is hard to pinpoint an actual cost, payouts can vary.

      This is why it's so important to have a well-trained dog and to ensure you do everything to keep it from running away.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 02/25/2014 10:46 a.m. #

        I so agree Tara. If people would just keep their dogs in check to begin with and train them well, we may see fewer cases like this. Sometimes the dog just doesn't know any better, or is scared, and it's instinct is to bite a person to protect themselves, like any animal.

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