Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Bite Attacks
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What proof will I need in a dog bite case?
Even if you or your child has suffered significant injuries in a dog bite incident in Tennessee, the law gives you the burden of proof against the dog’s owner. Most of these claims are paid using the owner’s home insurance policy, and insurers often attempt to fight against victims seeking compensation. For this reason, it is vital that you gather clear and comprehensive evidence to support your claim.
How to Prove Negligence in Your Dog Bite Injury Claim
The best way to remember all of the details is to write down a firsthand account of the incident as soon as possible. You may also consider keeping an injury journal to give the jury a day-by-day account of the pain you experienced, the problems you had during recovery, and other ways the attack affected you and your family.
In order to build a convincing personal injury claim, you should:
- Gather your medical records. Medical records are key to getting compensation for your past and future treatment. Request copies of your emergency room records, hospital stays, test results, physician’s notes, and any other records related to the injury. Any pictures of the wounds you suffered—both before and after treatment—can be extremely useful.
- Contact animal control. Dangerous animals should be reported to animal control. When you report the attack, an investigator will contact the dog’s owner to collect proof of current rabies vaccinations, inquire about the health of the dog, and obtain animal safety reports that could be useful in your case.
- Re-create the scene. If you can do so safely, take a video of the dog at the home or business where the dog lives. Include any notable items or defects in the area around the dog, such as torn up toys or holes in a fence where the dog could escape. Show the precise location of the attack, and note any witnesses who were at the scene who could be called to give testimony.
If someone else’s negligence caused your dog bite, we can get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries and help prevent a negligent owner from harming others in the future. Our injury lawyers can gather evidence on your behalf and advise you on your next steps, and we do not collect any payment from you until we secure a recovery. Simply call (615) 807-7900 today to set up a free initial consultation.
Who is responsible for the medical costs of a dog bite injury?
If you were attacked by a dog, there are a few different parties who may be held liable for your medical bills. Most dog bite injury cases involve making a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance provider to pay for medical treatment, but these claims can also include additional amounts for lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Whose Insurance Should Cover Treatment for a Dog Bite Injury?
If you have medical insurance, you should use it at the time of your emergency visit and during your follow-up visits. Anything your insurer pays for, as well as any costs you pay out-of-pocket, should be reimbursed by the at-fault owner’s insurance coverage. If you do not have health insurance, your bills may have to go unpaid until you settle your claim through the dog owner’s:
- Homeowners insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites account for over a third of all homeowner insurance liability claims and can cost up to $500 million in claims nationwide. If the dog owner has homeowners insurance, your claim will most likely fall under the homeowner's coverage.
- Med Pay coverage. Many homeowner policies include Med Pay coverage, a separate, no-fault coverage that applies only to a victim’s medical bills. This allows an insurer to agree to cover medical bills for an injury on the property regardless of whether the insurance company accepts liability for the accident.
- Renters insurance. If the dog’s owner lives in a rental property, you may be able to make a claim under his or her rental insurance policy. However, this is only an option if the policy includes liability insurance. If the policy only covers property damage, you may have to make a claim against the landlord’s commercial or homeowner policy.
If the insurer is reluctant to pay the claim, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to recover the full costs of the injury. If someone else’s negligence caused your dog bite injuries, our injury lawyers can gather evidence on your behalf and advise you on your next steps—and we do not collect any payment from you until we secure a recovery. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up a free initial consultation.
Can I get a disease or infection from a dog bite?
About 20 percent of people who are bitten by dogs will require medical attention related to the bite. While treatment may be needed for bleeding, broken bones, or nerve damage, it can also prevent infection and the spread of disease. Dog bites can transmit harmful bacteria or viruses into the victim’s bloodstream, placing the victim at risk of debilitating illnesses or even death.
Infections That May Spread From Dogs to Humans After a Bite
A dog’s mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, some of which can cause infection in humans. It is a good idea to wash dog bite wounds with soap and water and cover them with a clean bandage. If the wound itches, appears swollen, refuses to heal, becomes red or hot to the touch, or results in a fever, you should see a doctor immediately to check for:
- Rabies. Although the risk of getting rabies from a dog in the United States has dropped dramatically, it is still a concern because it is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. If you are bitten by an unknown dog or a dog that is acting strangely, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to receive a rabies vaccination.
- Tetanus. Tetanus is a toxin that can cause dog bite victims to suffer rigid paralysis, especially if they have suffered a deep bite wound and have not had a tetanus shot in the past five years.
- Pasteurella. Pasteurella bacteria may cause a wound to become red or extremely painful, but can also result in swollen glands, swelling in the joints, and mobility problems as the infection spreads.
- MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a deadly staph infection that is resistant to antibiotic treatments. Animals may be carriers of MRSA without showing any symptoms. Once it enters the bloodstream, the bacteria can spread throughout the victim’s body, causing life-threatening infections.
If you or your child sustained a dog bite injury, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Our injury lawyers can advise you on your next steps at no cost to you, and we do not collect any payment from you until we secure a recovery. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up a free initial consultation.
Is there any way to protect children from dog bite injuries?
Hundreds of thousands of children are sent to emergency rooms every year as a result of dog-related injuries, making dog attacks the second-most common cause of child ER visits. While children will always be more likely to suffer dog bites than adults, there are many actions dog owners and parents can take to reduce the risk of bite injuries.
Steps Owners Can Take to Prevent Dog Attacks
Under Tennessee dog bite laws, a dog owner has a duty to keep a dog under reasonable control to prevent injuries to the public. If an owner violates these duties and the dog attacks, the owner may be liable for the costs of medical bills, reconstructive surgeries, trauma counseling, and other damages suffered by a child and his family.
Dog owners can avoid being sued by doing everything they can to minimize accidents, including:
- Supervision. More than half of dog bite injuries occur in homes with animals that are familiar to the child. Owners should never let small children play with a dog unsupervised, even if the dog has never acted aggressively before.
- Training. Dogs should have a minimal level of training, such as responding to commands like “stop,” “leave it,” or a simple “no.” Dogs should never be trained or encouraged to fight or bite.
- Restraint. Dogs should be confined to their own yards by secure fences or tie-outs, and should always be on leashes while in public.
How Parents Can Protect Children From Dog Bite Injuries
A playful child may yell at, run to, or grab for a dog, causing the animal to panic and bite on instinct. Teaching children how to interact with dogs can go a long way toward preventing injury, especially if the child knows:
- Don’t provoke them. Even a restrained dog can be dangerous, and taunting or tormenting a dog can cause a violent reaction.
- Always ask before petting. Some dogs react well to contact with strangers, while others (such as rescues or service dogs) are best left alone. Make sure your child knows to ask permission before petting someone else’s dog, and to allow the dog to sniff them first.
- Beware of puppies. Dogs have an instinct to protect their young. A dog who is caring for puppies may be more aggressive than others.
- Don’t sneak up on them. Dogs don’t like surprises, and may bite out of fear if they are suddenly disturbed while sleeping or eating.
- Avoid unleashed dogs. If you see an unfamiliar dog roaming freely with no sign of an owner, let an adult know immediately.
- Don’t run! If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, don’t try to run away—the dog may see you as prey. Instead, stand completely still and say “No” in a loud voice. If the dog stops approaching, take a few steps backward with your eyes on the dog, gradually increasing the distance between you.
- Curl up. If a dog attacks or knocks you over, curl into a ball with your head tucked in with your hands covering your ears and neck.
If your child was harmed in a dog bite incident, you should speak with an attorney immediately to protect your child’s future. Our dog bite injury lawyers can advise you on your next steps at no cost to you, and we do not collect any payment from you until we secure a recovery. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to set up a free initial consultation.
What are the most common kinds of injuries in dog attacks?
Dog attacks can cause a wide range of injuries, and result in hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits every year. Due to the potential for serious infections or complications that occur as a result of the attack, injuries from dog bite incidents should always be taken very seriously, even if they seem minor at first.
Common Injuries Suffered in Dog Attacks
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 368,245 people were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for dog attack injuries in 2001, the majority of whom were children between the ages 5 and 9 years old.
A child may not recognize the dangers of approaching strange dogs, and when they get close to a dog they are typically standing face-to-face. In addition, children often weigh less than some large-breed dogs, and will not be able to outrun the dog who chases after them. As a result, it is often children who suffer:
- Leg, hand, and arm injuries. Many people react to a dog attack by putting their hands out in front of them to protect their faces. Unfortunately, an aggressive dog may latch on to these limbs with a powerful jaw, breaking the skin and tearing through muscle tissue. In some cases, a dog’s bite may be powerful enough to break through the bone.
- Disfigurement. Many victims are left with scars after a dog bite incident. If a dog pulls at an arm or leg for long enough, the skin may tear, requiring surgical intervention to repair the wound. These surgeries almost always result in scars, and can be devastating if they occur on a child’s face. A childhood encounter with a dangerous dog could result in disfigurement that lasts for the rest of a person’s life.
- Emotional injuries. A dog attack is a stressful incident. A victim will experience a great deal of fear and pain, both during the attack and throughout the recovery. There may be long-lasting emotional or psychological trauma, such as a fear of dogs, fear of going outside, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for victims who cannot cope with the emotional pain of the incident. If a victim has suffered scarring, he is more likely to suffer psychological effects, as he must look at a physical reminder of the pain every day. Children may need counseling to understand the anger or fear that they feel, while adults may need many years of therapy or medication to cope with the trauma.
- Infections. Dogs attack with their teeth and nails, both of which are potential breeding grounds for bacteria. Injuries involving lacerations and puncture wounds from a bite can cause dangerous infections, especially if the dog may have had rabies.
- Death. In some cases, a dog attack or bite can be fatal to a victim. A bite on the neck can cause bleeding and trauma from shaking or tossing, resulting in death for young children or elderly victims.
How to Get Payment for Medical Bills After a Dog Bite Incident
Victims often rely on their own medical insurance to pay for the costs of treatment after a dog attack. This may be sufficient to cover minor injuries, but the costs of medication, surgery, and physical therapy can quickly add up. If the victim suffered a prolonged attack or was particularly traumatized by the incident, therapy may be added to the costs of care, bringing the total to tens of thousands of dollars.
If a dog owner did not take proper precautions to protect innocent people from harm, the owner can be held liable for any injuries the dog causes. The Nashville dog bite lawyers at GriffithLaw can help you get the compensation you deserve for medical bills and lost income. Contact our skilled legal team today to begin your free case evaluation, or read through our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.
A neighbor’s dog bit me and caused several serious injuries. How much can I expect from a settlement if I sue the owner?
No matter the cause of your personal injury, whether it be a dog bite, car accident, or slip and fall, no decent lawyer can tell you how much your claim is worth just by looking at you. If an attorney tries to guarantee that you’ll receive a specific amount, you should probably find another attorney.
The thing is, it’s impossible even to estimate a potential settlement amount without discussing, calculating, and investigating all aspects of your claim. No two attacks are the same, no two injuries require the same treatment, and no two recoveries have the same price tag. Therefore, there is no spreadsheet that can reasonably show how much your individual case may be worth, if you decide to pursue it.
However, just because there isn’t a magic number, doesn’t mean you and your lawyer can’t work on assigning monetary values to worthy aspects of your claim.
Dog Bite Elements Worthy of Claim Compensation
As with any personal injury, the settlement prospects are determined by the specific elements of your case and your ability to prove fault. When building your case, aspects of the attack that can be included for compensation are:
- Property damage repair expenses. Did the attack cause permanent damage or injury to your property? If so, a list of the damaged items can be entered as legitimate injury losses. It’s important to note that pets are considered “property” when it comes to injury claims. Therefore, if the aggressive dog injured your dog or another animal in your care, you can demand compensation for vet bills.
- Physical injury expenses. Essentially, the more severe your injuries, the higher the settlement you should get. However, you must be able to provide complete medical documentation of your injuries, including severity, diagnoses, treatment options, recovery estimates, and long term effects. Treatment bills should also be included to verify the overall cost of your injuries. These reports can not only persuade a jury of how much you suffered but also how much the incident has cost you, physically as well as financially.
- Psychological trauma expenses. In many dog bite cases, physical injuries aren’t the only effects of the attacks. Permanent wounds, especially those sustained to the face and arms, can cause psychological scarring akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. The visual reminders of the attack can cause continuous anxiety while traumatic scarring and deformities can affect the victim’s sense of self. To overcome this emotional fallout, victims may require extensive therapy and expensive psychological treatment.
These aspects of your case are the foundation for seeking financial compensation. However, although you must file your claim within a year of the attack, a settlement can’t be calculated until after your recovery, even if that recovery takes longer than 365 days. Why? Because the complete cost of your attack should not be estimated or shortchanged. If a settlement was made during your recovery, the liable owner’s insurance company may only agree to pay for current treatment and damages. If you accept the settlement but your wounds worsen, become infected, or cause long term disabilities, you’ll have to pay those expenses out of pocket.
Don't get swindled by the insurance company, or taken around the block by an inexperienced lawyer—Contact GriffithLaw today to speak with a knowledgeable, trustworthy, and competent dog bite attorney.
Can the owner’s landlord be held accountable when a dog bites me on his property?
When an aggressive dog attacks you in a public area, the owner of that dog can be held legally responsible for any damage. However, if the attack takes place within the confines of private property, such as within an apartment complex, the owner of that property may also be held liable. To ensure your dog bite claim’s success, you should understand who may be liable.
Dog Bite Liability
Dog bite laws in the United States are somewhat complicated and can change from state to state. In fact, in Tennessee alone, dog bite laws can even vary from county to county. However, the overall understanding of liability and fault is placed on the dog’s owner. Since the dog can’t be held personally accountable for his actions, his owner is responsible for keeping him in line. Tennessee Code §44-8-413 specifically states that:
- A dog’s owner has an obligation to keep her dog under control at all times. This means she’s also responsible for keeping that dog away from situations that may provoke him to attack. If an owner fails in her duty, she’s subject to civil liability for any damages that result from the dog’s actions. The extent of damages can include injuries, medical exam costs, and property destruction sustained while on public property or while lawfully in or on private property.
- When an owner fails to keep her pet under control, she’s financially responsible for all damages caused by the dog’s actions. This holds true regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s temperament or propensity to lash out.
- In situations where a dog attack takes place on private property, the dog’s owner will be held accountable, but the owner of the property may also be subject to blame for allowing the dangerous creature to roam.
It’s rare for a landlord to be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant's dog. However, certain exceptions do exist. It’s important to know that leasing an apartment to a tenant with a dog isn’t enough to make a landlord responsible for the dog’s actions. To prove liability, you must be able to show that during the course of the lease agreement, the landlord:
- Had knowledge of the dog’s violent temperament but chose to lease to the owner despite the risks. If the landlord had previous knowledge that the dog was dangerous and negligently failed to address the situation, he could be held partially liable for any damages.
- Had intimate knowledge or control of the dog’s actions prior to or during the attack. If the landlord contractually agreed to take care of, harbor, kennel, or maintain control over the animal at any time, he may be open to liability charges. If he was taking care of the dog at the time of the attack, the responsibility of control transfers from the owner to the landlord. Furthermore, if the landlord had intimate knowledge of the dog’s personality, he should have been able to recognize the potential dangers and addressed them before an incident occurred.
- Had the legal power to evict the dog or his owner. If the landlord had the opportunity to request the removal of the tenant’s dog but failed to do so before an attack, he can be held partially accountable for negligence. Removal opportunity can be legally justified through eviction or as a consequence for violation of aggressive dog rules in the lease agreement.
If you believe that your dog bite injuries were caused as a direct result of owner and landlord negligence, contact our office today at 615-807-7900. We’ll be happy to schedule your FREE one-on-one consultation with attorney John L. Griffith so you can better understand your rights and legal options. Contact us today and see how we can help you get the injury compensation you need.
Need more information right now? Feel free to download our complimentary guide to personal injury claims, “The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case,” to learn more.
How long will my dog bite case take to settle?
A frequent question we get asked by our clients is —“How long will it take for my claim to be settled?” Although this question is important, it isn’t easy to answer. When it comes to personal injury claims, whether a dog bite, a car accident, or a slip and fall case, the potential duration of the claims vary from client to client.
Continuance Factors in Dog Bite Cases
Although we can’t give you a specific time frame such as three weeks or three years, we can tell you what factors of a dog bite case will influence whether the claim will be settled quickly or be drawn out. These elements include:
- Severity of your injuries. Depending on the extent of your injuries, an insurance company may choose to offer a settlement straight away. However, just because the offer is made, doesn’t mean you should accept. If your injuries are minor and you don’t want to drag out your claim, your attorney may advise you to consider a quick settlement. However, if your injuries are severe and extensive, your attorney should advise you to hold off on a settlement until your recovery is complete. Although the insurance company will try to settle early to avoid having to pay more for treatments, you deserve a settlement that will cover all of your expenses, not just the treatments up until the offer.
- Treatment requirements. The more extensive your injuries, the more treatment your injuries will require. It’s important to follow your doctor’s orders and receive all of the care you need to reach your maximum recovery. However, the more treatments you need, the more expensive your recovery becomes. As your recovery expenses increase, so will the time you and your lawyer will spend on a settlement agreement with the insurance company.
- Recovery time. As mentioned above, you shouldn't settle a case before finishing your treatment. In dog bite cases, it’s important to wait until your injuries have healed to discover the full extent of your scarring, and likewise how much compensation you deserve.
- Settlement options. The majority of dog bite cases are settled out of court and in a timely fashion. However, if the insurance company fails to negotiate a reasonable offer, you may have no other choice than to file a lawsuit. If you’re forced to go to trial, your claim may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months before a verdict is reached.
No matter the severity of your injuries, your best option to secure an efficient and successful dog bite claim is to seek the professional guidance of an experienced dog bite attorney.
Statute of Limitations
While we’re on the subject of time, you need to know that your dog bite claim is subject to a statute of limitations. This means that you have a finite, or limited, amount of time to file a claim against the liable owners before your case becomes invalid. It’s especially important, as a Tennessean, that you know our state’s limitation laws, for they are drastically shorter than other state filing limits. Tennessee dog bite victims are subject to a one year statute of limitations. If your child is a minor, that time may be extended until that child's 19th birthday. However, time is not your friend in cases like this. The sooner you seek guidance from a caring, trusted attorney, the better for you and your family.
If you fail to file within this 365-day window, Tennessee courts will most likely refuse to hear your case. Therefore, you have no time to lose—Contact local Tennessee attorney John Griffith, today to get your claim started. The faster you begin, the quicker you’ll receive your settlement. Call 615-807-7900 now, and see how we can help you secure your future.
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What should I do if I have been bitten by a dog in Tennessee?
According to the American Humane Association, every year an estimated 4.7 million people are injured as a result of dog bites, some of these cases even prove to be fatal. In response to this alarming number of preventable injuries, the Tennessee legislature has begun to rethink their dog bite laws. In fact, in 2007, after a multi-dog attack fatally wounded a 60-year-old woman, the legislature decided that laws needed a complete revision and passed an updated set of dog bite laws—revised again in 2015—that discounts the “first bite rule” in favor of circumstantial liability.
What Does This Mean for You?
The assumption under a "first bite rule" is that a dog owner cannot be held liable the first time the dog bites someone because there is no prior knowledge of the dog's aggressiveness. However, most states have rejected this rule and will hold dog owner's accountable for a dog's first attack. The revised law means that when you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a dog bite:
- You may be entitled to compensation whether or not it was the first time that dog showed aggression.
- You have one year to file an injury claim.
- You will have to be careful about how you respond to the attack in order to secure a strong injury claim against the dog’s owner.
Caring for the Bite While Securing Your Claim
When you’re unable to subdue an aggressive dog and wind up suffering severe bite injuries, you’re entitled to injury compensation from his owner. However, there are several actions you must take after the incident to not only avoid further injury but to also protect your claim. These actions include:
- Withdrawing to a safe place. The first thing you must do is increase your distance from the aggressive dog to prevent further attack and injury.
- Treating the wound. When a bite breaks the skin and causes excessive bleeding, you should keep the area elevated to limit blood loss. If possible, wash the wound with tap water to remove debris and saliva.
- Securing emergency care. Depending on the severity of the bite, you may need to call an ambulance as professional help may be required to treat your injuries.
- Identifying the dog. Before leaving the scene of the attack, try to identify the dog, where he came from, who he belongs to, and where he lives.
- Gathering personal information from the owner. Record the owner’s name, address, and phone number. Ask the owner for the dog’s license information and question him about any prior incidents in which the dog may have been involved.
- Seeking medical care. Always seek medical care after a dog bite. Since bites tend to break the skin, the attacking dog’s saliva can easily make its way into your bloodstream and cause infections.
- Photographing injuries. If possible, document your injuries and any damage by taking pictures of the wounds, where they took place, and any other results of the attack. These photographs can be used as evidence in your case and help illustrate the extent of the attack.
- Filing a report. Once you’ve been treated, file a report of the incident with your city or county animal control or sheriff’s department. This report can be used as evidence in your claim as well as provides documentation of the dog’s aggression.
- Contact an attorney. The best way to guarantee that your claim is just as vigorous as the dog who attacked you is to secure a respectable dog injury lawyer.
Considering the complexities and restrictions of Tennessee dog bite laws, a local and well-respected lawyer can help you understand and fight for your rights. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, contact GriffithLaw today at 877-959-8847 to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.