Why You Should Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer – Guide to Dog Attack Lawsuits


Cassandra Nguy

A dog bite lawyer can help you file a personal injury claim to determine who is responsible for your injuries. They can maximize your compensation amounts as dog bite cases can range from $10,000 to upwards of $1 million, depending on your injury’s severity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show a total of 468 deaths from dog attacks between 2011-2021. The numbers average out to 43 deaths per year in the United States.

Dog attacks are common in the United States and many people seek immediate medical attention for dog bites each year. Prevent negligent dog owners from hurting others while mitigating your losses with a personal injury attorney.

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Table of Contents

What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need for a Dog Bite?

You’ll need a personal injury lawyer specializing in dog bite claims to assist you with your lawsuit. Personal injury lawyers can evaluate your claim to ensure you have the right to receive compensation for your dog bite injuries.

Dog bite lawyers would consider your financial needs like medical bills, loss of wages, rehabilitation or treatment costs, and more. Even a minor dog bite can elicit post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and other mental stresses.

The Definition of a Dog Attack

Any harmful situation with a dog is considered a dog attack according to U.S. law. Dog bites are not the only form of harm a dog can inflict on another person. A common example would be if a dog lunged on an elderly person, causing them to slip and fall.

Dog attacks portray the dog’s dangerous ability to cause risk for injury or death among the public or animals.

Examples of dog attacks you may sue for include:

  • Bites, attacks, or inflicting injury on public or private property.
  • When unprovoked, a dog bites and causes injury to a person.
  • Kills or injures humans and animals (livestock on owner’s property).
  • Is trained to engage in animal fighting.
  • Aggressively attacks in a manner that the person feels endangered despite no injury occurring. However, the act of barking, bearing teeth, and growling is an imminent threat.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

The injuries from a dog bite can range from mild scratches to death and dismemberment. Here are steps to take after a dog bite injury.

  1. Your priority is inspecting the wound and the severity of your injury. If you need immediate medical assistance, call 911 and emergency services as soon as possible. Here are first aid steps to take for addressing minor dog bite wounds.
    • Stop the blood by gently pressing a clean cloth. Clean the wound by placing it under running water.
    • Gently scrub with soap for about 3 to 5 minutes if the wound is bleeding, scrub for 15 minutes, and rinse with running water.
    • Gently pat the wound dry with another clean cloth or gauze pad. Apply antiseptic like chlorhexidine or betadine to kill germs. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol as it can delay the healing.
    • Apply antibiotic ointment like Neosporin with a gauze pad and wrap the wound with a sterile bandage or gauze.
  2. Identify the dog owner’s contact information and homeowner’s insurance. Acquire any witnesses’ information or statements and contact your local animal control center.
  3. Take pictures or videos of your wound and the place of the accident. Some witnesses may have recorded the incident, so have them send you the videos for your dog bite claim.
  4. Pursue a personal injury claim that can help you get compensated for medical expenses, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc.

Reporting the Dog Attack

When reporting a dog attack, you want to contact the proper authorities like your local animal control center. Report severe dog attacks to the police in order to acquire a police report for your legal claim.

You would then file a homeowners insurance claim with the dog owner’s insurance company. Some homeowner’s insurance policies may cover an initial dog bite claim on the insured’s property. Your state’s dog bite laws may vary, so consult a dog bite lawyer if your state follows the one-bite rule.

Be prepared to provide details of the date of the attack, location, you or other victims involved, and the description of the dog’s breed and the circumstance of the dog bite wound.

Find out if the dog attacked prior victims to determine if the dog is dangerous to the community. This can serve as evidence for the owner’s negligence in protecting others, raising your chances for compensation. If you contacted the police and filed an official report, you should also get a copy and save it as evidence.

You could also submit a report to veterinarians or physicians so they can allow public health authorities to investigate the incident for rabies control. Also, reporting to veterinarians allows local public health authorities to track data and trends for the people within the local community.

Common Injuries After a Dog Attack

Some common injuries after a dog bite are often located on the face, head, hands, arms, and legs of the victim. Facial injuries are very common and other types of injuries include:

  • Scarring from bites, lacerations, and cuts
  • Nerve damage to injury
  • Broken bones, fractures, and dislocation
  • Infection from bite wounds
  • Puncture wounds, tendon damage, and soft tissue damage
  • Disfigurement, permanent scarring, back injuries, head injuries
  • Amputation, avulsion, and crushed limbs
  • Severe emotional distress and post-traumatic stress

Most of these injuries can be permanently disfiguring and the emotional injuries could last a lifetime. Also, infections like Rabies and Tetanus can develop to the point of being fatal.

Dog Bite Infections

Some dog bite infections are severe and cause permanent scarring and possibly death. Below is a list of dog bite infections and their symptoms.

  • Capnocytophaga—bites on hands and feet carry a high risk of infection. The symptoms include blistering around the wound, redness/swelling, oozing pus, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, headaches, and joint pain.
  • Rabies—an infection with a 99% fatality rate in humans, and should be looked at by a doctor immediately. Symptoms include fever, headache, flu-like symptoms, and an itching or prickling feeling.
  • Sepsis—a severe reaction to infection and can be life-threatening. Signs of sepsis include high or low body temperature, confusion, extreme daytime sleepiness, and immense pain or discomfort.
  • Tetanus—a serious infection requiring antibiotics and medications including a tetanus vaccine. Symptoms include cramping in the jaw, muscle spasms, difficulty swallowing, and muscle stiffness.

You may avoid a dog bite infection if you address the wound quickly.  However, go to the doctor immediately if there are signs of sharp pain, warmth, swelling/redness, and oozing from the wound.

What Causes Dogs to Attack?

Dogs may inflict harm if they feel you are trespassing on their territory. They may exhibit barrier protection within their property, heightening their aggressive instincts if they perceive an intruder.

Dogs may attack due to a lack of discipline and training from a negligent owner. An abusive home environment may have conditioned a dog to attack when it perceives a threat to their boundaries.

Another reason could be sudden fear and anxiety from fast movements that trigger a dog’s reflexes. This is why children tend to be the victims of dog bites, with 2 million dog attacks involving children happening every year.

To prevent dog attacks as an owner, you must socialize your dogs to humans and other dogs. Understand their behaviors and why they act with aggression; the reason can be as simple as fear or a prior traumatic experience.

Who is At-Fault After a Dog Bite Accident?

Liability after a dog bite accident varies depending on your state’s laws. There are two types of laws states follow that determine who is at-fault after a dog bite accident:

  • Strict liability
  • One-bite rule

In strict liability states, dog owners are legally responsible for bites and other injuries caused by their dogs. Strict liability applies even if an owner wasn’t aware of their dog’s previous history of aggression.

In states following the one-bite rule, owners are liable for dog attacks only if they suspected their pet would act dangerously and cause the accident. It is called the one-bite rule because these states may waive liability for the first bite. They assume the owner will be more careful in the future.

The one-bite rule may be overwritten if the owner displayed negligence and knew the dog would attack, causing further injuries. If evidence shows the owner’s negligence caused your injuries, you may file a legal claim, even in a one-bite rule state.

Strict liability states may have a lower bar for legal claims than one-bite rule states, but both follow tort laws that determine who is at-fault for an accident.

Dog owners are legally obligated to ensure public safety, and are expected to take steps to ensure their dogs don’t pose a danger to society.

Common Defenses in Dog Bite Cases

Some common defenses to counter a dog bite claim is to shift blame or liability away from the defendant. For instance, the defendant may claim the plaintiff provoked the dog through their actions, causing the dog to bite in retaliation.

Another example would be if a beware of dog sign was below the scene of the accident. They may claim the sign absolves them of negligence, but the sign actually proves they knew their dog exhibited dangerous behavior beforehand.

A common defense is the assumption of risk, where the victim knowingly assumed the risk of a dog bite. This defense becomes relevant if the defendant claims the victim was trespassing on their property.

Be careful when encountering these defenses in your legal claim to maximize your compensation amount. It’s important to hire an experienced attorney that will organize your case to address these defenses.

What if the Attacking Dog is Considered Dangerous?

If the attacking dog was already considered dangerous due to previous cases, you may sue for negligence and get compensation for your pain and suffering. For the one-bite rule, if this is their second time causing a bite incident, the owner must pay for the damages since they should have known their dog was likely to cause injury.

In extreme cases, dogs that are seen as a danger to the public with a history of aggression (at least 2 separate cases) or have rabies may be euthanized.

Who Pays for Your Dog Bite Injuries?

If there is substantial proof that the owner’s negligence caused the dog attack, they’re responsible for covering your dog bite injuries. If the dog owner has homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, you’ll have to file a claim with their insurance to cover dog bite liability expenses.

For claims exceeding the limit for the homeowner’s insurance, then the owner would have to pay the rest out-of-pocket. This includes vet bills if your dog sustained injuries from another owner’s pet.

Worst-case scenario, if the owner refuses to pay out of pocket, you may file a dog bite lawsuit with a personal injury lawyer for your loss.

Damages You May Sue For After a Dog Bite Accident

You may qualify for compensatory and punitive damages if you sustained injuries from a dog bite accident.

The injuries from a dog bite can be life-altering, from medical bills to treat your injuries to permanent disfigurement.

Insurance companies want to lowball your settlement to mitigate the losses from your damages. If you don’t have a dog bite attorney to pressure these companies, you may not receive a lower settlement amount than what you’re owed. Consider these types of damages to classify the losses from your dog bite.

Compensatory Damages

Damages that are considered compensatory are actual damages during the accident such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages or income
  • Destroyed or damaged property
  • Rehabilitation and treatment costs
  • Incurred/future expenses
  • Emotional distress

Compensatory damages include your monetary, measurable losses, as well as the intangible damages from the dog attack.

Punitive Damages

These types of damages financially punish dangerously negligent or malicious behavior to prevent such actions from happening in the future. There may be caps to the punitive damage amounts in your state, so talk with your attorney for further details.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Cases

The statute of limitations for dog bite cases in the United States depends on each state and is similar to the statute of limitations for personal injury.

The time frame can be from six years after the injury, typically two to three years. Some states provide exemptions for minors since they may not understand their rights or injuries as they age.

The Costs of Hiring a Dog Bite Lawyer

If you’re worried whether you can afford a dog bite lawyer, know that most dog injury lawyers work under contingency. Your attorney will receive payment only after the case is settled, and they receive a cut from your compensation amount.

If you fail to qualify, don’t worry about paying your dog injury attorney. Contingency lawyers will not charge you unless you win your case.

Consider Locating a Dog Bite Lawyer With LegalASAP

Don’t hesitate after a dog bite injury and contact a dog bite lawyer with LegalASAP. We understand it can be painful and difficult to handle a dog bite case, so it’s imperative to contact a personal injury lawyer to help with your case.

Fill out this free short consultation form, and see if you qualify for a dog bite claim. If there are questions or problems, call us at 888-927-3080 and we will do our best to answer any concerns you may have.

Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at linkedin.com