If you are like most pet owners, your dog is as important to your family as any other member. That’s why it’s so terrifying if another animal bites and hurts your pet. Your first priority, of course, is to get medical treatment required to treat your pet’s injuries.
Now the question is: Who pays the bills for that treatment?
We are happy to say there is likely good news for you in this situation. Nine times out of 10, as long as you and your pup were not actively violating the law (for instance, by trespassing on someone’s property), the attacking canine’s owner is legally liable for your vet bills.
Chances are good they won’t pay out of pocket, either. In some cases, the other canine’s owner may have homeowner’s insurance that specifically covers bite injury costs.
The Law Is on Likely Your Side
Many states have passed laws about this issue, but not all. These laws make an owner liable for damage done by his or her pet. In some states, it does not matter if there is evidence of the dog’s previous viciousness, or if the owner had knowledge of it.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, there are three types of law that hold owners liable for their dog’s actions. These are:
- Dog-bite statutes: The dog’s owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage that animal causes without provocation.
- One-bite rules: The attacking dog’s owner is responsible for an injury if the owner knew their pet was likely to cause that type of injury.
- Negligence laws: The dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because that owner was negligent in controlling their own pet. (For example, by not having the animal on a leash.)
States with Less Legal Protection When It Comes to Dog Bites
As of 2019, 36 states have adopted some sort of strict dog-bite liability laws. It is important to note, however, that 14 states have not. These are:
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Four states — Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, and North Dakota — have no dog-bite laws at all. So, what if the attack against your pet happened in one of these four (or in a state listed above)? Then you really need a personal injury lawyer to help you sort out the situation and hold the responsible party financially liable.
It is also important to get an attorney if the situation had any complexity or unusual circumstances surrounding it. In some states, there are exceptions to strict dog-bite liability laws. For example, the attacking dog’s owner could argue there was “provocation.” Provocation means that the injured animal did something to cause the other dog’s attack. Of course, the exact definition of provocation may not be relevant to your case. But it depends on the facts in your specific case, and rulings from previous legal claims in your state.
How Much Money Could a Legal Claim Pay Because Another Dog Bit My Dog?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average payout for these types of pet injury claims is in the mid-five figures:
- The average payout per bite claim in 2021 was $49,025.
- The average cost per claim nationally rose 39% from 2012 to 2021. This is due to increased medical costs plus the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards for plaintiffs.
- Award payouts are trending upwards.
- Liability claims for canine bites as well as other dog-related injuries cost homeowner’s insurance providers $882 million in 2021.
- The number of canine-bite claims nationwide increased from 17,597 in 2020 to 17,989 in 2021 — a 2.2% increase.
You Are Not Alone
There are currently more than 85 million dogs living in the United States, and bite injuries are unfortunately not uncommon. If a valued member of your family — your own pet — is the victim, it may be time for you to take legal action to recover the costs of veterinary bills.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to an attorney in our network who specializes in these cases. They will be happy to review the details of your situation and let you know what step to take next in a free personal injury consultation.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online personal injury case evaluation now!
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.