Get Compensated for Your Dog Bite Injuries

An injury, even a minor one, can cause a major financial setback. Healthcare is so expensive that even if you have health insurance, a single trip to the emergency room can change your financial situation from comfortable middle class to worrying whether you will be able to afford next month’s bills.

Dog bite injuries can be physically, emotionally, and financially painful, especially if you love dogs. Even a dog that seems friendly can attack without warning and leave injuries that require multiple surgeries and cause chronic pain. When you first seek treatment for your injuries, you might still be holding onto hope that the recovery will be simple, but you might find that the pain gets worse over time instead of better. The good news is that dog bite victims in Missouri have five years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit against the party that is legally responsible for the dog bite (usually the owner or harborer of the dog). The Kansas City dog bite lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC can give you the best chance of getting the money you need and deserve to compensate you for the injury suffered from a dog bite injury.

Your Health Insurance Pays Your Dog Bite Medical Bills

Damages after a Dog Bite InjuryIf a dog bites you, the most important thing is to get prompt treatment for your injuries; you will have time to sort out all the financial issues resulting from the injury later. Seeking treatment as soon as the attack occurs can prevent serious complications, such as swelling; if you act quickly enough, severed body parts can even sometimes be reattached successfully. Call 911 or have someone drive you to a hospital emergency room. You need to be tested for rabies as bacteria from the dog’s mouth can get into your body. Please wash the wound thoroughly after the bite as that can help remove some of the dog’s bacteria from your body and prevent an infection.

If you have health insurance, count your blessings. Your financial losses because of a dog bite, or any other serious health problem, will be much less than they would be if you did not have insurance. If you file a lawsuit against the party responsible for the attack, you can seek damages in the amount that the doctors and hospitals billed you and what your health insurance company paid for your treatment. If you end up prevailing with your claim, you may have to reimburse your health insurance company out of the damages you win for the amount it paid for your dog bite-related treatment. This is only if your health care plan is a self-funded ERISA plan. Our lawyers have the expertise to advise you whether your health insurance needs to be reimbursed out of any settlement or not. You should also see whether a dog owner’s insurance policy has MedPay available to cover any of your medical bills before your own health insurance kicks in to pay or before you have to spend money out of your own pocket to pay for copays and the deductible.

You should also understand how an insurance company and courts will likely view your medical bills. For instance, if your medical bills were $10,000 because of a dog bite, with $1,000 billed to you and $9,000 billed to your insurance. If your insurance negotiated a $2,500 write off, so that it only paid $6,500, you will likely only be able to recover $7,500 from the defendant and you likely cannot ask the defendant to reimburse you for amounts of money that no one paid and were written off.

The Dog Owner Pays Either Through Their Assets or Their Homeowners or Rental Insurance Policy

It is easier to prove you are entitled to damages in a dog bite case than you might think. In most personal injury cases, you must show negligence on the defendant’s part, which means that you must show that the defendant could have and should have prevented the incident that caused your injuries. In a dog bite that occurred in the state of Missouri, you do not need to prove this. Missouri’s dog bite statute follows a doctrine of strict liability. This means that, if the dog that bit you belongs to your neighbor Fred, then Fred is liable for your injuries in almost all cases; the only exceptions are if you deliberately provoked the dog or if you were trespassing on Fred’s property when the dog bit you. In other words, simply by buying or adopting the dog, Fred was assuming the risk that the dog might bite someone. Fred still has to pay for your injuries, even the dog had never bitten anyone before (meaning that Fred could not have known that the dog had a tendency to bite) and even if Fred took reasonable measures to stop the dog from attacking you, such as by keeping it on a leash and verbally commanding it to leave you alone. If you made a demand to Fred, you would hope that Fred has either a homeowners or renters insurance policy that will cover the damages to you.

Does a Landlord Have to Pay In a Dog Bite Case?

It is possible to recover damages for some dog bite injuries under Missouri’s premises liability laws. Premises liability applies in dog bite cases when the dog bite took place on a private property that does not belong to you or to the dog owner. For example, you can sue Phil’s Barbecue if a customer’s dog jumps on you at the carry-out window and bites you as you are carrying away a tray of ribs and burnt ends. Specifically, you can win this case if you can prove that it was the responsibility of the staff of Phil’s to notice that a customer’s untrained or disobedient dog was hanging around the carry out window where it could bother or attack other customers. This may be a tough case but there are certain circumstances when the landlord should have done something or knew about the risk that a dog would bite.

In another example, you may be able sue the landlord of a townhouse complex if a tenant’s dog jumps the fence behind one of the townhouses, runs into the parking lot, and bites you. It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the fences so that dogs cannot jump over them or to set and enforce policies about dogs that can live at the complex. Maybe there was, or should be, a rule that only dogs under 30 pounds are allowed in the townhouse complex or that they cannot be outside in the fenced yards when their owners are not home. In a premises liability case, you must show negligence on the landlord’s part.

You Split the Cost

Missouri is a comparative fault state, which means that you can still be awarded money, even if the dog bite attack was partially your fault. For example, in the case of the attack at the barbecue restaurant, you knowingly carried a plate of barbecue past a dog. The court will decide what percent of the fault for the attack belongs to you and then reduce your damages award by that percent.

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney
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