More than 800,000 people are forced to seek treatment for dog bites every year. When a dog bites someone, their owner can be held responsible and may have to pay for the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Most people are bitten by dogs owned by someone they know, such as a friend, family member, or neighbor. This can make claiming compensation extremely awkward because most people don’t want to litigate against someone they have a personal relationship with.
Fortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies cover pet attacks like dog bites. This means that if you are attacked by a dog belonging to someone you know, you’ll have the option of making a claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy rather than “suing” the person directly. It can be a great way to recover the damages you are entitled to without putting yourself and the dog’s owner in an unpleasant situation.
To make this as easy on yourself as possible, you need the Austin dog bite attorneys of Loewy Law Firm on your team. We can undertake the claims process with the insurance company on your behalf to get you the compensation you need for your medical bills. All you should have to do is worry about getting well. Call us today at (512) 280-0800 for a free initial consultation so we can help you figure out what to do next.
Types of Compensation You Could Be Owed After a Dog Attack
Although many dog bites are mild and can be treated with a first aid kit, some bites can cause severe injuries that require costly medical treatment. If you are a victim of a severe dog bite, let’s look at some of the ways you can claim compensation for your injuries:
- Medical Bills. Dog bites can cause serious injuries, such as muscle tearing, nerve damage, soft-tissue damage, puncture wounds, eye damage, facial injuries, broken bones, scratches, and scarring. These injuries can be costly to recover from. They may require surgeries, extensive physical therapy, medication, and even psychological treatment. The general rule is that the dog’s owner is responsible for any and all treatment that is required as a result of the dog bite. This is even true if the dog bite exacerbated a medical condition that the person already had. For example, if the victim is healing from a broken leg and the dog bite makes that injury worse, the dog owner would be responsible for the medical bills that result from aggravating the pre-existing injury.
- Lost Wages. When a victim of a dog bite has to take time off work to recover from their injuries, have surgery, go to physical therapy, etc., the dog’s owner can be required to compensate the victim for income they lost as a result of not being able to work. If an injury impairs a person’s ability to do their job in the future, the dog owner could also be responsible for future lost wages.
- Property Damage. The dog’s owner is also responsible for any property damage that occurs as a result of a dog attack. For example, if a dog attacks a person’s head and neck area and breaks their eyeglasses, the dog’s owner would be responsible for replacing the broken eyeglasses.
- Punitive Damages. In certain cases, when a dog owner behaved in a way that was particularly reckless, such as allowing a dog with a known history of biting people to run loose, victims of dog attacks can receive punitive damages. This type of compensation is above and beyond what the victim actually requires to physically recover, make up for lost wages, and recoup for pain and suffering. The purpose of punitive damages is to reinforce to the owner of the dog the fact that they behaved in a careless and negligent manner and to prevent such behavior from happening again.
- Multiple Damages. Very few dogs are truly dangerous. Most dogs are sweet, friendly, and loving creatures. But if a dog is declared dangerous by the court system, then the damages for an injury caused by a dog bite can “multiply” by two or three times what they would have been in actuality.
- Pain and Suffering. Many victims of dog bites and attacks experience physical pain, from the injury itself as well as from surgeries and other medical procedures that they must undergo in order to heal. This physical pain can lead to other kinds of suffering that aren’t so apparent, such as emotional trauma and mental anguish. Victims of severe dog attacks may develop a fear of dogs and may suffer from other kinds of debilitating mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and insomnia. Compensation for pain and suffering can vary greatly depending upon various circumstances, but juries frequently award damages for pain and suffering to victims of dog attacks.
How Do I Claim Compensation Through a Homeowner’s Insurance Policy?
Most people spend time around dogs belonging to people they know. If you were bitten by a dog owned by someone you know, like a member of your family, a friend, or a neighbor, you can often claim the compensation that you are entitled to through a homeowner’s insurance policy, rather than directly “suing” someone you have a close relationship with. This helps both the victim of the attack and the dog owner avoid an awkward situation that could hurt your relationship. Here are the steps you should take to claim compensation:
- Seek medical attention first. Even if you don’t think that it’s serious, dog bites and scratches can cause serious infections. Seek prompt medical care and document your injuries. Be as thorough as you can be when you speak to medical care professionals. Describe the attack in full, where you were, exactly what happened, and who was involved. The last thing you want to do is give the insurance company a reason to deny your claim later.
- Report the dog bite to your local authorities. Medical authorities in Texas are legally required to report the incident to local animal control authorities. These authorities will reach out to the dog’s owner to make sure that the dog is up to date on all of its vaccinations, especially rabies.
- Collect evidence to support your claim. Evidence can include photos and videos of the incident and the injuries, testimony from witnesses who were present, a list of your medical expenses throughout your recovery process, a tally of your lost wages, and other physical evidence, such as torn or bloody clothes and other damaged property.
- File a claim with the insurance company. You’ll file your claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy. Loewy Law Firm can help with that and with the subsequent settlement negotiations. If we can’t reach an appropriate agreement, we can take the insurance company to trial on your behalf.
- Speak to an insurance adjuster. Gather together all of your evidence and be prepared to speak to an insurance adjuster. Be as professional and calm as possible. Insurance adjusters may try a variety of tactics to negotiate the amount of the claim down, but be firm. If they ask for your consent to record your statement, don’t feel pressured to give one. It’s best to have an attorney with you when making a statement.
- Consult with an attorney. Working with an attorney is your best bet at getting the compensation you deserve. There is a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases in the state of Texas, so don’t wait to take this step.
How Loewy Law Firm Can Help
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, particularly if the dog’s owner is someone that you know and love, we’re here to help. Our experienced Austin injury attorneys are committed to helping victims navigate what can be a very delicate situation in a way that gets you the compensation you deserve but doesn’t erode your relationships. If you were injured in a dog bite incident, contact us for a consultation today at (512) 280-0800.