As of 2021, California was noted to have the highest number of claims filed pertaining to dog bites per capita: a figure slightly over 2000 claims. The average compensatory dog bite settlement resulted in nearly $60,000 per individual claim. Additionally, in 2021, insurance companies paid out almost $121 million in claims related to dog bite injuries or incidents, in California exclusively. This is a staggering amount.
For the most part, dog bite cases will result in some of legal settlement. These settlement often transpire after several months of back and forth negotiations, discovery of evidence, and lengthy discussions. The designated amount of compensation is contingent upon the following factors including:
The following article will cover the topics included below:
A settlement is defined as a resolution agreed upon all parties involved in the dog bite incident. Often the dog owner or the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance will pay out compensatory damages to the dog bite victim. In return, the dog bite victim will agree to the drop the case pending against the dog owner for the attack.
Compensation received for the dog bite attack is intended to make the victim whole and should reflect a rough estimate of what recovered damages would have looked like had the case gone to trial. Compensatory losses covered by insurance payout may include:
Compensation is award upon the condition that the dog bite victim agree to drop the case against the dog owner. Once a case is dropped and compensatory damages are accepted, the case cannot be resumed or reopened. If you later feel unsatisfied with your awarded compensation, or feel you should have been entitled to additional compensation, you cannot reopen or resume this same case.
Settlement in a dog bite case involves a series of negotiations and discussions between the dog bite victim and the dog owner. The negotiation process can start as soon as in the first days after the bite incident and progress to the point of a jury returning a closing verdict.
The settlement process initiates when the dog owner’s insurance put forth an initial or preliminary settlement proposal. This offer is intend to be portrayed as convincing as it encompasses medical expenses that may have already been paid by the dog bite victim. This offer, however, does not encompass the costs of future medical care or other compensatory losses associated with the injury.
The dog bite victim has the right to refuse the initial, preliminary offer. If that is the case, the personal injury attorney on behalf of the victim will prolong the negotiation by putting forth a demand letter, addressed the dog owner’s insurance company. The stipulations of the demand letter include the following terms:
If the issued demand letter does not proffer a comprehensive or adequate settlement, then next steps would entailing filing a formal lawsuit against the dog owner. The action of filing the complaint or suit will be reinvigorated and ramped up by the further discovery of evidence. The dog owner or his or her insurance company may continue to make offers as the case moves forward to potential trial.
The vast majority of lawsuit are settled out of court per standard attorney negotiations procedures. However, if a comprehensive or adequate offer is not made in line with the dog bite victim’s expectations, then the case will go to trial. Settlement offers can be made immediately prior to trial; settlement offers can even be negotiated immediately prior to the jury returning their verdict.
Although all dog bite cases are assessed uniquely at the individual level, there are a number of significant factors that can impact the settlement offer ampunt, under California dog bite legislation. These factors are as follows:
Depending on the critical factors above, the settlement resulting from the dog bite case can increase substantially.
Minors of children that are attacked or bitten by dogs are capable of recovering a larger compensatory settlement than adults. There are a number of reasons for this including the following:
The severity and seriousness of any dog bite injury will unequitvocally impact the figure of the final settlement amount. Minor or negligible injuries that do not involving puncture skin will not recover the same amount of compensation as life-altering or life-threatening dog bite injuries. Critical factors that impact the gravity or severity of the injury including the following:
In the case that a dog bite results in fatality or death of the victim, the victim’s family is eligible to bring forth a wrongful death claim.
Dog bites that results in permanent or long-last injury or debilitation are predisposed to accrue larger compensatory settlements. Disabling injuries often involve extensive medical bills required for long-term ongoing future healthcare.
Dog bites that result in permanent scarring, disability or disfigurement are capable of generating much higher settlements. Disfigurement, even if exclusively superficial from an aesthetic perspective, can serve as a persistent reminder of the trauma of the dog bite attack.
Aesthetic scarring or disfigurement can also result in stigmatization or isolation from the victim’s peers as a result of the dog bite attack. Children especially tend to suffer profound psychological distress as a result of disfigurement or scars from dog bite attacks, as scarring may be difficult to cover up or mitigate. Such disfigurement can promote severe emotional distress especially to young children in their formative years.
Dog bite attacks have a propensity to leave the victim permanently terrified of dogs. These aggressive attacks can render victims with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), resulting in long term trauma due their fear of dogs. The phobia of dogs can prevent a victim from enjoying dogs as pets, which could further promote the victim’s isolation from his or her friends, family, and peers.
The compensatory settlement is also contingent upon the dog’s owner’s previous knowledge of the dog’s history of aggression and tendency to be dangerous. This offers potential for the recovery of punitive damages which can increase the settlement amount in a dog bite case.
If as a dog bite victim you are trespassing at the time of the dog bite attack, this can impact or reduce your settlement offer under the terms of California dog bite legislation.
Trespasses are unable to leverage California’s dog bite legislation to win a dog bite claim. This legislation stands and holds dog owners strictly liable exslusively when the dog bite takes place while the victim is on the dog owner’s property legally and lawfully. Trespasser would have to rely on proving the dog owner’s negligence as the reason for the incurred injuries.
Juries are more likely to hold trespassers at least partial at fault for their injuries regardless of whether the location where the dog bite occurs is public or private. Comparative faults laws can reduce the compensation awarded at the time of the verdict in a dog bite case.
A dog bite victim is able optimize the dollar amount of the compensatory settlement by pursuing the following two actions:
Receiving medical treatment immediately after the dog bite attack is critical because it creates a paper or digital receipt detailing your compensatory losses. It also reduces any potential doubt or speculation about the costs associated with treating your condition. Medical treatment adds confidence and certainty to any dog bite victim’s case, which is often reflected din the terms of the settlement offer.
Identifying and hiring a capable personal injury attorney well-versed in dog bites can intimidate insurance companies as they can often differentiate which lawyers are willing to accept a low ball offer versus which lawyers are willing to take a case to prolonged trial. The right, capable attorney will persuade insurance companies into offer an adequate comprehensive offer from the get-go to prevent the case from going to trial.
Dog bite case in California are often settled after several weeks or months of negotiation. Some cases, however, can go on for years on end. Critical factors that affect the duratiion of a lawsuit can include the following:
Although a dog bite victim may be very tempted to accept an initial low-ball offer in order to move past the trauma of the incident, it is advised to pursue the maximum possible compensatory settlement. The maximum offer is pursued in order to settle any potential future medical costs and pain and suffering associated with the dog bite attack.