This example of a dog attack victim's case illustrates several important legal issues in these types of claims. We'll review the incident, discuss liability, injuries, settlement negotiations, and the final case resolution.
Mr. Postman was delivering mail on foot on a new route that he had never worked. While walking to Mr. Dog Owner's home, he heard the sound of a barking dog but before he could seek cover, the dog ran out and jumped on Mr. Postman knocking him to the ground. Mr. Dog Owner immediately came over, placed a leash on the dog, pulled him off of Mr. Postman and brought him into the house.
As it turned out, Loveable the black Labrador Retriever was a 9-month old puppy, weighing 60 pounds who was very excited to see a new person. He jumped on Mr. Postman as he did all people and when he knocked him over, proceeded to repeated lick him on the face.
Some states have a statute known as the "One Bite Rule" - meaning that a dog owner is NOT liable for the dangerous propensities of their animals until that animal has bitten someone. The dog owner must have some notice that the dog is dangerous since domesticated animals are always presumed to be docile.
This statute has been replaced with more up-to-date legislation in some states. Each jurisdiction has its own laws and you should always check the relevant statutes in your area. In California, for example, dog bites are considered strict liability situations holding dog owner strictly liable for the first bite whether or not the owner knows the dog is dangerous.
In this case however the dog did not bite but rather pushed Mr. Postman to the ground. Therefore, the incident would be handled more like a negligence case requiring a duty, breach, causation, damages analysis not a strict liability one.
The dog attack victim experienced general fear initially but also a fractured tailbone when he fell to the ground. Though his fear dissipated readily when the dog began to do no more than lick his face, he was in excruciating pain due to his tailbone injury and could not get up without assistance.
This fall also hit a nerve radiating from his posterior up his back causing an immediate sharp pain in his neck. The homeowner immediately rendered aid to Mr. Postman stating "I will pay for everything."
This case offered questionable liability because it was viewed as a negligence case rather than a strict liability case.
In a negligence case, the dog attack victim would have to establish that the dog owner owed him a duty, that the duty was breached, that such breach was the cause of his damages and that there were actually verifiable damages. Even though the dog owner quickly responded, leashed the dog and removed him, minimizing the situation significantly, the postman was still severely hurt with a fractured tailbone.
Mr. Postman submitted a claim to the home owner's policy of Dog Owner for his medical bills totaling $2,500 plus $5,500 for his pain and suffering. (It's rare that a dog owner will have separate dog bite insurance.) He also pursued a claim through workers compensation since the injury occurred on the job.
In the workers compensation arena, the postman was rated at 10% temporary disability and placed on paid leave for 1 week without a lump sum offer of settlement.
The homeowner's policy settled for $4,086 which included $500 for future medical expenses attributed to the accident and $86 for an orthopedic pillow for Postman to use while driving his route.
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