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WHEN THE DOG BITES (AND WHEN PERSONAL INJURY COSTS STING)

Dog bites a boy on the floor

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you’re feeling sad,” Julie Andrews sings, “You simply remember your favorite things and then you won’t feel so bad”. Nice song, but here at Ramey & Hailey, we know that in the real world, when the dog bites, it’s not quite that easy…

“Each day about 1,000 U.S. citizens require emergency care treatment for serious dog bite injuries. Annually, about 9,500 citizens are hospitalized due to dog bite injuries,” DogsBite.org tells us. “

Even the author of The Complete Health Dog Handbook, Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M. admits, “Aggression is a natural canine personality trait – all dogs have it to some degree and will show it under certain circumstances.”  There are five categories of canine aggression, Brevitz explains:

  • dominance aggression (showing who’s boss)
  • fear aggression (dog is afraid of strangers)
  • territorial aggression (protectiveness)
  • predatory aggression (the hunter instinct)
  • sibling rivalry (jealous for attention)    

In 2017, the combination of Pit bulls, American bulldogs and Rottweilers contributed to 82% of all dog bite-related fatalities. “These dog breeds are known for their abiding loyalty to their owners, strong sense of territoriality, physical largeness and overall strength,” Arizona lawyer Thomas Richardson explains. “Consequently, when these dog breeds do attack, they can inflict great harm on a defenseless person, especially small children and the elderly,” he notes.

“Dogs are carnivores, and sometimes they do bite,”  Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods write in the Atlantic. “More than 300,000 Americans visit the ER for dog bites every year, and an average of 25 of these people die from the injuries.”

Dog owners in Indiana are required to keep their dogs under reasonable care and control even if they are unaware of any vicious tendencies in the dog. If the dog bites someone, the owner may be held liable if:

  • there was no provocation
  • the person was acting peaceably
  • the bite happened in a location where the dog owner has a duty of care

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health informs citizens that an animal bite is a reportable health event and that there is an animal bite report that should be filled out.  Indiana courts have held that a person bitten by a dog may sue the dog’s owner for damages relating to the bite, including medical bills, lost income, and “pain and suffering”. 

Are settlements and verdicts for dog bite injuries petty cash?  Hardly. In 2017, according to the Insurance Information Institute, there were more than 18,500 claims, with an average cost per claim of $37,000!

If you or someone you know were to be severely injured by a dog, how would the extent of your injury be assessed? After all, it’s not easy to put a dollar figure on emotional distress.  As one New Jersey lawyer points out, there are various factors that would come into play:

  • emotional trauma
  • where the physical injuries will fully heal
  • the length of the recovery process
  • whether there will be any permanent impairment or disability
  • how the injuries affect the victim’s livelihood

In order to help you prove what damage you have suffered, there’s a lot we personal injury attorneys must do on your behalf, interviewing, collecting medical records, and even soliciting opinions from counselors and psychologists. With more than forty years working on dog bite cases in Indiana, our attorneys at Ramey & Hailey know just how complicated these cases can become.

When the dog bites, it’s often not enough to remember your favorite things. Those financial and emotional costs can really sting. Don’t be satisfied to be “really sad” – it will be really smart to get an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney to help you fight back.

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