There isn’t an average dog bite settlement that people can expect to recover, as there are many factors that can influence the amount of compensation in these cases. Knowing how dog bites develop, the kinds of injuries they result in, and the many damages they can cause will help you calculate the settlement you may be able to recover in a dog bite injury case.
How Dog Bites Occur
Dogs may be enticed to bite by a variety of circumstances. In most cases, something will aggravate or otherwise inspire the dog to attack, often as a stress response to certain stimuli.
There are several reasons why a dog bite might occur. These potential causes include:
Dog owners should take the time to train their dogs to prevent them from attacking other people. In many cases, this training involves ensuring the dog gets plenty of exposure to people to the point where the dog is comfortable around strangers. If the dog spends plenty of time with other humans, it’s less likely to perceive them as potential threats and attack.
Encroaching on the Dog’s Territory
Dogs mark an area as their territory, and they’ll protect it as much as they can. They come to know their family and will often protect them, much like property, even if someone enters the home and doesn’t mean any harm. Dogs that are particularly territorial may attack relatively unprovoked if they encounter any perceivable threat in the home, especially if the dog isn’t used to socializing with house guests. They may also be protective of items they perceive as theirs, including toys and food.
Injuries or Illnesses
Dogs can also become aggressive toward strangers or even their owners when ill or injured. Certain injuries can make them more defensive as they become more vulnerable, and illnesses such as rabies could make them more aggressive and uncontrollable.
If a dog owner doesn’t treat his or her dog with love and proper care, the dog could naturally develop an aggressive temperament. Owners may hit their dogs regularly or neglect the dog, both of which can lead to dogs becoming distrustful and aggressive toward people.
Leaving the Dog Alone
Dog owners may leave their dogs alone unsupervised for a period of time, which can give the dog a chance to encounter strangers and get out of control in their presence. Without owners to reel them in and keep them restrained to prevent dog bites, the unsupervised dogs may attack others.
Most Common Dog Bite Injuries
There are many types of injuries that dog bites may cause, with a large number of them involving serious harm to victims. Specifically, dog bites hospitalize around 12,480 injury victims, and the injuries resulting from these bites can be fatal.
The following are some of the most common types of injuries resulting from dog bites:
- Broken bones
- Punctured skin
- Head and neck injuries
- Injuries to the face
- Eye injuries
- Nerve damage
Additionally, injuries can lead to scarring, along with emotional and psychological trauma resulting from the incident. In fact, reconstructive surgery is often needed after dog bites to help restore victims after extensive dog bite injuries.
In addition to these injuries, dog bite injury victims can develop illnesses and complications that worsen the victim’s condition physically and psychologically. Some examples of these complications include:
If dogs haven’t received a rabies vaccination, they could contract rabies and spread it to dog bite victims. Often, dogs infected with rabies are more likely to be aggressive and bite, with the ability to spread the virus through their saliva in a bite.
Without quick treatment of the rabies virus, it’s potentially fatal in humans.
The majority of dog bite infections involve pasteurella. This bacterium isn’t necessarily deadly, but it can cause various symptoms in dog bite victims, including swelling and pain in the bite area.
Tetanus is another type of disease that can result from a dog bite if left untreated. This particular strain of bacteria causes paralysis in victims, making it important for people to receive a tetanus vaccine to protect them against these effects.
Dogs contain this bacterial strain in their saliva, much like pasteurella, but it’s also transmissible through close contact or scratches. While healthy individuals may not be susceptible to infections of capnocytophaga, it has the potential to cause sepsis in immunocompromised individuals.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is another type of potentially deadly bacteria that can result from dog bites. Not only can it cause serious complications through multiple instances of exposure, but it’s also highly resistant to antibiotics and is subsequently challenging to treat effectively.
If the extent of the damage or infection resulting from a dog bite is serious enough, the injury could lead to an amputation. For example, certain bacteria could cause necrosis (i.e., tissue death) that puts the rest of the body at risk of infection, forcing doctors to amputate the affected limb to stop the bacteria’s spread. Other injuries may simply cause enough tissue damage to prevent the limb from healing properly.
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
Like other types of personal injury, dog bite injuries can lead to damages that victims may recover in a claim or lawsuit through a settlement. There are multiple types of damages that victims may recover, including economic and non-economic damages.
Dog bites often lead to multiple economic damages that victims sustain, such as:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Hospital stays
- Property damage
These damages are relatively easy to calculate as they come with specific costs. Insurers and attorneys can identify all economic damages resulting from bites to determine how much to compensate victims in a settlement.
Dog bite cases could also lead to various non-economic damages. While these are less tangible and more difficult to quantify than economic damages, victims may be able to recover a certain amount of financial compensation if the injury negatively impacted the victim’s life.
Examples of non-economic damages could include physical pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of relationships and companionship, and trauma.
If a dog owner acted with gross negligence or malicious intent in a dog bite case, he or she may also face punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages. The courts may award these in a trial setting to punish negligent dog owners for their irresponsible behavior. The aim here would be to prevent the dog owner from acting similarly in the future, while setting an example of them for other dog owners.
Dog bites are often fatal, particularly when they involve highly aggressive breeds with strong bites that can cause extensive damage or deadly bacterial infections. If a loved one dies because of a dog bite, the victim’s immediate family members may be able to recover certain types of wrongful death damages. These damages could include the aforementioned economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, along with others such as burial and funeral expenses.
Does Home Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Depending on the details of a homeowner’s policy, home insurance can cover dog bites in some circumstances. Specifically, home insurance may cover medical and legal expenses resulting from a dog bite if a dog bite victim chooses to sue the policyholder. However, some exclusions do exist for this coverage. For instance, insurance may not cover bites involving certain restricted dog breeds, and it may fail to cover injuries to household members resulting from dog bites.
Factors Influencing Compensation for a Dog Bite
If you’re wondering how much your dog bite injury settlement may be worth, there are some contributing factors to consider as you calculate the total amount of potential compensation with an attorney.
Some influencing elements in these cases include:
The Extent of the Injuries
The more severe the injury resulting from a dog bite, the more extensive the medical care and recovery process will be, leading to more economic and non-economic damages. As a result, more severe injuries often warrant more significant compensation.
If a dog bite leads to scarring, this often translates to permanent damage and disfigurement that can affect a victim for the rest of his or her life. As a result, injuries involving scarring may also lead to higher settlements.
The Location of the Bite
The position of the bite could further influence the settlement amount. Bites in highly visible areas may lead to more apparent disfigurement, which could lead to a higher settlement for this type of non-economic damage.
While there isn’t a defined average settlement for dog bite injuries due to the many potential factors involved, victims may be able to determine how much they’re able to recover in a claim or lawsuit based on the damages sustained in a dog bite incident.