According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 4.5 million people suffer a dog bite each year and nearly 20 percent of dog bite victims need medical care. Over 400,000 children need medical care for dog bites each year, too. The bites can be quite minor in many instances, but they can also be fatal. Dog bite victims do have recourse, though, through the civil court system.

Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite?

The first thing a dog bite victim needs to do is seek medical attention. Even if the bite could be considered minor, medical treatment can help prevent infection and it provides a record of the damage. Once medical care is received, the next important step to take is to determine who the dog’s owner is.

Strict liability is imposed by some states, which means the owner of the dog is liable for a dog bite, under all circumstances. In other states, dog owners are allowed “one free bite” wherein the owner is not considered liable if this is the first time the dog has bitten someone. Some states hold an owner liable if he or she knew the dog has “dangerous propensities.” A previous bite incident is one way the owner should have known that the dog poses a risk of injury to someone.

If someone ignored an owner’s attempts to warn people that his or her dog is dangerous, then the owner might not be held liable for bite injuries. For example, if someone climbs over a fence that has a “Beware of Dog” sign posted and is bitten, the dog owner may not be responsible. If the victim provoked the animal and was bitten, it is possible the owner may not be responsible as well.

What Damages Are Recoverable in a Dog Bite Case

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries because of a dog bite, you may be entitled to pursue and recover damages. Some of the possible damages you may seek include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Emotional distress

Punitive damages may also be awarded in some cases. These are damages meant to punish the owner for the dog's behavior.

Getting Legal Help

If you or a loved one have suffered a dog bite, seeking compensation can be complicated. An experienced attorney can provide information on your legal options.