Animal Bites Law

How Much Can a Dog Bite Case be Worth?

If a person is bitten by a dog, it may be possible for the injured victim to obtain thousands or even millions of dollars in damages. While there is no guarantee as to how much a given case may be worth, there are several types of claims that may be considered. Generally, a victim will be reimbursed for medical costs as well as lost wages or future earnings. Punitive damages may also be awarded depending on the facts of the case.

Medical Expenses After a Dog Bite

There are many different types of medical expenses that may be covered in a judgment or negotiated settlement. For instance, an injured victim may be paid for the cost of going to the hospital or the cost of seeing a doctor for treatment. If a person doesn't have insurance, it could cost hundreds of dollars just to see a doctor and get treatment for cuts or other wounds.

In severe cases, a person may need surgery as well as weeks or months of hospital care. If home care is needed, that may be included in a jury award or settlement. Other medical bills that could be awarded to a victim include the cost of medication needed to help with physical or mental pain caused by the dog bite.

Time Off Work and Earnings

If a victim is required to miss work because of an injury, that person may be entitled to recoup wages lost while recovering. In the event that a victim can't go back to work, he or she may be entitled to lost future earnings. In cases involving an individual who is not able to return to his or her previous job, partial future earnings may be available.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is a legal term to describe anything from an achy back to the pain caused by broken bones. As dog bites may cause serious lacerations, broken bones and the need for surgery, it is likely that a person may experience some level of pain. Even small bites may lead to infections that may cause aching, swelling and pain throughout the body. When pain interferes with a person's ability to live a normal life, an individual may be compensated in a personal injury case for that disruption.

Mental Trauma of Attack

Emotional pain is recognized as a valid reason to compensate the victim of a dog bite or other attack. For some, the memory of the bite may make it difficult to leave the house, spend time around dogs or otherwise suffer from symptoms of PTSD. There is also the possibility that simply hearing a dog bark or sounds similar to a dog's bark may trigger symptoms.

In some cases, emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to work or otherwise participate in activities that they may have enjoyed in the past. It is possible that the cost of seeing a therapist or taking medication to deal with emotional issues will be made part of an injury settlement.

Potential for Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are generally awarded as a way to send a message to both the offending party and to others who may rationalize a certain behavior. These damages are usually awarded on top of other damages such as lost wages or medical expenses. The amount of the award varies depending on the circumstances of the case as well as state or federal laws relating to punitive damage caps.

For instance, the state of California has no cap on punitive damages, but it will take a person's ability to pay into consideration. Other states such as Illinois have caps on punitive damages, but they do not apply in personal injury cases involving dog bites.

Keep Good Records

It is critical that a person keeps good records of everything that happens between the time a bite occurs and the time a case commences. For instance, it may be a good idea to obtain a note from a doctor describing the injuries and the limitations it may place on the victim. It will also be worthwhile to get copies of medical bills and other costs related to treating the bite.

After initial treatment, an injured victim should keep a record of the emotional and physical pain caused by the bite. If possible, those who have witnessed changes in a person's physical or emotional state after the bite should be asked to make a written statement. Doing so may make it easier for an attorney to connect the bite directly to a decreased quality of life experienced afterward. It may be best to talk with a personal injury attorney. This person may be able to help an injured victim take legal action and potentially collect compensation.