Is the Dog Owner Responsible for Pain and Suffering After a Dog Attack?
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Dog attacks are often very traumatic and can cause serious injuries. It can be quite hectic and confusing as you try to figure out your next steps, but one of the most important steps will be to contact an experienced dog attack lawyer to help you pursue any compensation you may be entitled to.
If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, call the dog attack lawyers from Zinda Law Group at (512) 246-2224 for a free consultation. If we are unable to reach a favorable result in your case, you will not owe us anything.
When is a Dog Owner Responsible for Pain and Suffering?
As with many other personal injury lawsuits, the victim of a dog attack may be able to pursue compensation for any pain and suffering experienced as a result of the dog attack. If the owner’s dog caused serious bodily harm to you, you may be entitled to compensation for some damages for any pain caused by the attack, or for any emotional suffering such as the need for any therapy. Pain and suffering can sometimes include such damages as PTSD, significant changes in lifestyle caused by emotional and mental suffering from the dog attack, or similar damages.
When is a Dog Owner not Responsible?
A dog owner may not always be responsible for any pain and suffering damages. Generally, the pain and suffering must be related to the physical injuries suffered in the attack. Thus, if the dog attack did not cause any serious bodily injury or physical disfigurement, a victim may not be entitled to any compensation for these purely mental or emotional damages.
What is ‘Pain and Suffering?’
Dog bites or attacks generally cause victims to suffer not only physical pain but mental and emotional suffering as well. This emotional suffering can result from the physical pain of the attack, from medical treatments, as well as from the trauma of the dog attack itself.
Permanent disabilities or disfigurement including scarring, lost eyes, or permanent nerve damage, are included in the calculation of pain and suffering.
Future pain and suffering may also be included when there is evidence the victim will require additional medical treatment in the future. Long-term side effects such as depression, PTSD, loss of self-esteem, and avoidance of social interactions may also be included in a calculation of pain and suffering, but the calculation for pain and suffering should still generally reasonably relate to the extent of the victim’s permanent physical damages.
Other Types of Damages from Dog Bites
Aside from pain and suffering, you may also be entitled to compensation for other economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Medical Bills: Medical costs you may be able to be compensated for include any ambulance fees, diagnosis, and treatment by a doctor, any surgeries or other operations, and any medication or therapy required to treat you for your injuries from the dog attack.
- Loss of income: You may be entitled to compensation for any lost wages due to an inability to work while you were recovering from any injuries suffered in the accident.
- Loss of earning potential: If you are no longer able to perform the duties necessary for your job because of injuries caused by the dog attack, you may also be able to claim compensation for this lost ability to earn income. This calculation will include such factors as your salary before the dog attack as well as your age.
- Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering damages may be available to compensate you for any pain and anguish caused by your injuries from the dog attack. This calculation will often be unique to your case and will consider the severity of your injuries as well as the impact of those injuries on your quality of life.
What to Do if You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog
If you have been bitten by a dog, you should immediately apply first aid. After doing so, you should follow several steps:
1. Go to the Hospital
You should go to the hospital for a full examination as quickly as possible after the dog attack. Be sure to keep detailed records of any visits to a doctor’s office or hospital.
2. Find the Dog’s Owner
After receiving any necessary medical treatment, you should be sure to learn who owns the dog that attacked you. Identifying the dog’s owner can help prevent another attack on another victim, but it may also help you seek additional compensation from the owner’s insurance company.
3. Thoroughly Document Everything:
After finding the dog’s owner, you should collect the names and contact information for any witnesses to the dog attack. You should also take pictures if you can of the dog, your visible injuries, and anything in the area that may support your version of what happened or what may have allowed the dog to attack you, such as any hole in a fence or an open gate.
4. Report the Attack to Animal Control Authorities
You should also report the dog attack to the local animal control authorities. By reporting the attack, you may be able to gain information such as who owns the dog if it was not wearing any identifying information, as well as potentially be able to learn whether the dog has attacked anyone before.
5. Contact a Lawyer
You should also contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the dog attack so your attorney may help you understand your options as well as potentially help you pursue those options and seek any compensation you may be entitled to.
Dog Bite Law
While many states have specific dog bite or animal attack statutes, Texas does not. However, you may still be able to seek compensation for your injuries by proving negligence, the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities, failure to comply with local laws requiring dogs to remain leashed or similarly secured, or even intentional harm by the owner intentionally directing the dog to attack or to scare someone. Finally, Texas does follow the “one-bite rule” which means the dog’s owner may be strictly liable for your injuries if you can show the owner knew the dog was aggressive or that the dog had bitten someone before.
Meanwhile, Colorado does have a specific dog bite statute which may make a dog owner strictly liable for injuries caused by the owner’s dog. This means if the owner’s dog bites or attacks someone, the owner may be held liable even if the owner was not negligent and had no prior knowledge of any dangerous propensities by the dog.
Under Colorado’s dog bite statute, the dog’s owner may be held liable if the victim can show:
- The owner’s dog bit someone who was lawfully on public or private property at the time of the attack; and
- The bite caused serious bodily injury or death.
However, Colorado does still recognize the one-bite rule that may mean the owner could not be liable if there was no evidence the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
The dog bite statute provides for an exception to the one-bite rule to hold the owner liable if the dog bite caused serious bodily harm. If the injury was not a serious bodily injury and the dog had not bitten anyone in the past, the owner may still be liable if there was a violation of a leash law or knowledge the dog had dangerous propensities, such as previously biting people or jumping on and snapping at people.
Proving Negligence for a Dog Bite
To prove negligence by the dog’s owner, a victim must prove the owner:
- Owned or possessed the dog;
- Owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the dog from injuring anyone;
- Breached this duty; and
- This breach proximately caused the victim’s injuries.
Common Injuries from Dog Bites
Dog bites can cause a variety of infections, including:
- Rabies: Rabies is transmitted by the dog’s saliva and is generally treated through various shots. If rabies is not treated or diagnosed, it could potentially cause death.
- Tetanus: Tetanus is a bacterial infection which often causes painful muscle spasms. If untreated, tetanus could lead to paralysis or death.
- MRSA: Staph infections can often result from dog bites and can sometimes be life-threatening, especially if the staph spreads to the lungs and bloodstream.
Some dogs may have powerful jaws, such as pit bulls, which may be capable of breaking or even crushing bones, especially if the dog bites the arms, hands, feet, or legs. A dog bite may also often result in toes or fingers being completely bitten off.
Dog bites often result in open wounds, which may leave the dog attack victim vulnerable to infections. These open wounds often leave permanent scarring or disfigurement even after the wounds have healed.
The incredible force of some dog bites can often crush or damage internal organs and muscles. As a result, these bites can cause serious internal injuries as well as permanent and crippling muscle damage.
Statute of Limitations
As with many cases, there is a time limit for how long you may be able to file a lawsuit after a dog attack. This time limit is the statute of limitations, and any lawsuit brought after the statute of limitations has expired will generally not be allowed. Although these time limits may vary from state to state, it typically ranges from one to six years and is usually the same as the statute of limitations for other personal injury claims in that state. Most states generally provide for a statute of limitations of two or three years from the date of the dog attack. Colorado’s statute of limitations is two years from the date of the dog attack.
How to File a Claim
1. Contact an Attorney
The first step to filing a claim seeking compensation for the dog attack will be to contact an experienced dog attack attorney who can help you pursue any compensation you may be entitled to. Experienced attorneys are familiar with the laws regarding dog attacks and may help you prove the dog owner’s liability for your injuries and damages. Your lawyer may also be able to help you understand your options for pursuing a claim against the dog owner or any insurer the owner may have.
2. Investigating the Dog Attack
By hiring a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible after you have been attacked by a dog, the attorney may conduct a thorough investigation of the attack. Your attorney may investigate the dog attack and gather evidence that may prove liability by the dog’s owner and/or any possible negligence by the dog’s owner such as by failing to properly leash or restrain the dog. Your lawyer may interview any witnesses and investigate whether the dog had been fenced in or leashed as well as whether there was a leash law or relevant law regarding securing dogs in effect in the locality where you were attacked by the dog. A thorough investigation by your attorney may often be crucial in helping you seek the compensation you may be entitled to.
3. Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Often, damages caused by dog attacks are handled by the dog owner's homeowner’s insurance company. The insurance company will likely try to persuade you that it is unnecessary to hire an attorney while their claims adjuster offers a settlement to pay for your injuries. These claims adjusters are hired by the insurance companies to save the insurer as much money as possible, often by paying victims less than they may actually be entitled to.
Hiring an experienced dog bite lawyer may help prevent insurance companies and claims adjusters from taking advantage of you. Often, the homeowner’s or dog owner’s insurer may attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with you so that they can avoid an expensive trial. An attorney may make sure the insurer does not take advantage of you and may help you seek the compensation you may be entitled to.
If your attorney is unable to reach a settlement with the dog owner or insurance company that is satisfactory to both sides, your lawyer may have to take your case to trial to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. During the trial, your lawyer may present any evidence that may prove the dog owner’s negligence, such as leaving the dog unleashed or otherwise failing to secure the dog, as well as any other evidence that may prove the dog owner’s liability for your injuries.
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At Zinda Law Group, our dog bite attorneys are here to help you with your claim. We help our clients seek the maximum compensation they may be entitled to as a victim of an animal attack.
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