Dog bites often can be painful and expensive. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, your hospital bills may become overwhelming very quickly. The last thing that you want to worry about while you’re recovering is money and medical bills. You probably don’t believe you should have to pay these expenses at all since you were bitten by someone else’s dog. Fortunately, if the dog owner was at fault for the dog bite, there are several ways for you to make sure your medical expenses are covered. Top Kansas City dog bite attorneys discuss below.
What Documentation Do I Need After a Dog Bite?
One of the most important things you can do to make sure that your medical expenses are paid after a dog bite injury is to document the injury and anything else you can document or record about the incident.
If you are out in a neighborhood and a dog runs up to you and bites you, make sure that you immediately photograph the injury and the dog (assuming your injuries allow you to do that). In the best-case scenario, the dog owner would be present and cooperative. They would provide you with their information and offer to get you medical assistance and cover your expenses. But if that’s not the case, make sure you track down the dog’s owner and document their name and address so that you can provide that information to law enforcement or a lawyer.
Is the Dog Owner Always at Fault for an Injury?
To get your medical expenses covered by the dog owner or the dog owner’s insurance company, you’ll have to show that the dog owner was at fault. This should be a fairly easy task, as the dog owner is almost always at fault when their dog bites someone.
Most states have strict liability laws that make a dog owner automatically at fault any time their dog bites someone. Even if there is no strict liability law in your state, the dog owner is still responsible if they were being negligent when the dog bite occurred. Negligence can include:
- Not having the dog on a leash where a leash is required
- Allowing the dog to enter your property
- Failing to warn you that the dog may be aggressive
- Generally failing to control the dog’s whereabouts or activity
Consider, however, that a dog owner may not be liable for the damage caused by their dog biting you if you:
- Trespassed on the dog owner’s property
- Provoked the dog
- Interacted with the dog despite the dog owner’s warning not to go near the dog because the dog was aggressive
- Threatened or provoked the dog by acting in a way that was unreasonably careless
If you did none of the above, then the dog owner most likely will be at fault and will be responsible for your medical expenses.
Will the Dog Owner’s Insurance Cover My Medical Bills?
Once you’ve documented the injury and established that the dog owner is at fault, you can then determine if the dog owner has an insurance policy that will cover your medical expenses. The dog owner may have one or more of the following insurance policies:
- Home insurance. Home insurance policies often cover damage that pets might cause to property or other people. If the dog owner has a home insurance policy, it is likely that you can file a claim under that policy that will cover your medical costs. However, some home insurance policies won’t cover pets if the pet is a certain breed or has a history of aggressive behavior. If that is the case, the dog owner may have animal liability insurance that will fill that gap in home insurance coverage.
- Animal Liability Insurance. Animal liability insurance is different from standard pet insurance. Its primary purpose is to cover expenses related to injuries or damage the pet might cause, while pet insurance usually only covers the dog owner’s personal expenses in caring for the dog’s medical needs. So, if the dog owner only has pet insurance, that may not cover your medical expenses. However, if the dog owner has animal liability insurance, then that policy should cover all of your medical expenses, up to the limits of the policy.
- Car Insurance. It is possible that you were bitten by a dog while in the dog owner’s car, or that the dog jumped through an open car window and bit you. In that case, the dog owner’s car insurance policy may cover your medical costs if the dog owner does not have home insurance or animal liability insurance. There must be some connection between the dog bite and the dog-owner’s vehicle, however, for the car insurance policy to cover your expenses.
How Do I Get an Insurance Company to Pay My Medical Expenses?
To make an insurance claim for your injuries, you will file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance provider similar to how you would file a claim after a car accident. This will allow the insurance company to begin assessing your claim and they will eventually pay you a one-time, lump-sum settlement. While you wait for the settlement process to take place, it is best to let your own health insurance company cover your medical costs rather than to let the medical bills go unpaid. Once you receive your lump-sum settlement, part of that money will go to your health insurance provider to repay it for whatever it has spent on your medical bills.
What if the Dog Owner Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Ideally, the dog owner will have some sort of insurance policy that will cover your medical expenses. But, in reality, that won’t always be the case.
When there is no insurance policy to rely on, the dog owners, themselves, will become liable for your medical costs. This may make things more difficult. The dog owner may not be cooperative about paying your medical bills, which will require you to file a lawsuit against the dog owner. If you win the lawsuit, the court will order the dog owner to pay a certain amount toward your medical expenses. If this is your situation, the best thing to do is to consult a personal injury lawyer with experience in dog bite cases to assist you in filing a civil lawsuit against the dog owner.