If a dog bites you or your child, it is important to determine who the responsible party is. In some cases, the dog may have been provoked, or defending its property or owner. But at times, a dog is naturally vicious or has bitten other people in the past. In that case, there may be some accountability for injuries or damages by the owner or their insurer.

The Test For Liability

For a dog owner to be held liable for actions of their dog, a few elements must be present. First, the owner has to have known the dog was prone to biting and had done so in the past. Simple ownership is not sufficient if the dog did not have a vicious nature that the owner knew of. People have a right to own dogs, and a dog owner can’t predict every possible event.

Second, the owner must have failed to keep the dog leashed or otherwise fenced in on their property. This means the dog had to be ‘at large,’ or wandering unsupervised by their owner. This failure to contain the dog is the other element required for liability. If both of these elements are present, there may be a claim for injuries available.

This all requires that the victim have the name and address of the owner, and can document the injury and its effects. An unknown owner, or unspecified damages make it difficult to present a claim.

Who Will Pay The Claim?

In the case of injury, the victim can sue the owner for damages. Of course this requires hiring an attorney and filing a case in court, but that may force the owner to consider settlement. For this reason, it is important not to sign any agreements or accept any payments from the owner prior to contacting your attorney. They may give you much less than your injuries deserve.

Sometimes, a dog owner will have a homeowner’s insurance policy that will cover dog bites. Those policies can be narrow in their coverage, but if you file suit, the owner may contact their insurer to attempt a settlement and resolution. The insurance company will require some documentation of the dog bite and resulting injuries, and will likely advise the dog owner to avoid admitting fault. A settlement by the owner’s insurance company to offset medical costs and emotional trauma may be the most efficient means to be compensated for injury.

In extreme cases of dog attacks, more severe penalties may be available. At Schrom & Shaffer, P.C., we will consult with you and assist you in proceeding with your case. Contact us as soon as possible after the incident, while facts are fresh in your mind and prior to any settlement discussions.

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