If you love animals, and especially if you have been a dog owner your whole life, you probably never expected that a dog would bite you. It is true that dogs are usually harmless and that the laws preventing dog owners from letting their dogs walk on public property without a leash are sufficient to prevent most dog bites, but when a dog does bite a person, the injuries can be serious. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 4.7 million dog bites every year. Statistically, that means that there are 2,400 dog attacks every day, 100 attacks each hour, and 36 attacks every second. Currently, around 800,000 of those 4,700,000 dog bites require medical attention. The Center for Disease Control also reported that mixed breeds are responsible for the second-highest dog bite fatalities in the United States. Victims of dog bites have the right to recover damages for medical bills and other expenses they incur because of the injury. In 2018 alone, insurance companies paid $675 million in dog bite liability claims.
Victims of dog bites have the right to recover damages for their medical bills, expenses, and pain and suffering they incurred because of the bite injuries. Insurance companies will do everything they can to keep from paying you compensation for your injuries, however, and if they do pay, they often give you as little money as possible. Records from dog bite insurance statistics show an increase of insurance costs per claim to $44,760 from $39,017 in 2018. You need the dog bite lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC to help you get fair compensation for your dog bite injuries.
We have found there are six general mistakes to avoid if you have been bitten by a dog and want to pursue a claim against the dog’s owner for compensation. Here are those six:
Mistake #1: Not Gathering Essential Information and Evidence
The more pictures you take in the first few minutes after a dog bites you, the better. Take pictures of your injuries. Take pictures of your surroundings, such as a dog park or a yard with a broken fence. If possible, take pictures of the dog. If the dog has a collar, take a picture of it. Get the dog owner’s contact information. If you do not collect this evidence immediately after the accident, it will be hard to recreate it later.
Mistake #2: Waiting Too Long to Get Medical Treatment
Some injuries, including dog bites, hurt more on the second or third day than they do right after they happen. Swelling and bruising also take a while to appear. For purposes of presenting evidence in a dog bite lawsuit, it is important to have your injuries examined by a doctor on the day of the accident, even if they do not hurt very much. Of the 800,000 annual attacks, 334,000 are severe enough to warrant hospitalization. That is important information to record for your case. When a doctor examines you, then the doctor’s notes about your injuries go into your medical chart, and you can use the chart as evidence if you file a dog bite lawsuit or settle a dog bite case pre-suit.
Mistake #3: Withholding Information From Doctors
It is important to tell your doctor about how your dog bite injuries happened. It is important to tell your doctor the whole truth. Even if you tried to pet a stray dog, or maybe you were on someone’s property without the owner’s knowledge and the owner’s dog bit you, tell your doctor. Dog bites can happen in many different ways; don’t be embarrassed about any of them! Dog attacks occur most frequently in the home of the victim or in the home of a victim’s friend. Significantly, 77% of dog bites are from dogs owned by the victim's family or friend of the family. If you leave out part of the story, the details you left could be revealed in other evidence. If that happens, your story may seem less credible and your case could be more difficult.
Mistake #4: Not Notifying the Dog Owner
Even if you generally dislike confrontation, it is important to notify the owner of the dog that bit you about the incident. If the owner only finds out later, he or she might deny that the incident took place the way you described it. If you cannot find the dog’s owner, such as if the dog was unaccompanied in a neighborhood or was in a busy dog park where it was hard to tell which dogs belonged to which people, exchange contact information with as many witnesses to the incident as possible.
Mistake #5: Giving the Insurance Company Too Much Information and Access to Information
If you file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance company, the insurance company will try to get a recorded statement from you about your encounter with the dog. Although the agent might tell you that giving a recorded statement is a requirement for getting any compensation for your claim, this is not true. The real purpose of getting a recorded statement is to catch you in the act of being inconsistent with your story, so that the insurance company can reduce the amount they offer you. Whatever you do:
- Do not indicate that your injuries are your fault.
- Do not say that the dog bit you because of something you did.
- Do not downplay the severity of your injuries.
The best thing to do is not to give a recorded statement at all and to let your dog bite lawyers do the talking.
The insurance company might also ask you for access to your medical records. Do not grant them access; your medical records are confidential, and you have the right not to let anyone see them except your doctors. The insurance companies are not just looking for information about the dog bite injury; they are looking for anything to use against you in court. For example, if you have a mental illness or if you have previously filed a personal injury lawsuit about another injury, they will try to argue that you are just filing the lawsuit to be manipulative. A lot of people are surprised that insurance companies would do something so sleazy or unfair, but they sometimes do, and you can prevent it by not letting them access your medical records.
Mistake #6: Not Consulting a Lawyer
It is never too soon to talk to a lawyer about your injuries. Even if you are not sure if you need to file a dog bite lawsuit, or even how serious your injuries are, it is best to get a professional opinion from reliable dog bite lawyers.
Lawyers, like doctors, are no strangers to dog bite cases or how expenses the cases can get. The Insurance Information Institute recorded that dog-bite liability claims cost $797 million in 2019.
A dog bite injury lawyer is your best protection. Your dog bite lawyer will know just what to say when talking to insurance companies and other lawyers about your claim. Your lawyer will tell you whether the settlement that the insurance company is offering you is fair and reasonable. They will also help maximize your chances of winning a lawsuit if you decide to file one.
Our Experienced Dog Bite Injury Lawyers Help You Get Justice
Dog bite victims have the same rights as people injured in any other kind of accident, and dog bite lawyers defend those rights. Contact Foster Wallace, LLC in Kansas City, Missouri for a free consultation.