A Personal Injury Case Study
The following example of a dog bite insurance claim discusses some important legal issues in these types of cases. We'll review the dog attack, liability, injuries, settlement negotiations, and the final case resolution.
John took his two Pit Bulls to a dog park and began talking to another pet owner while his dogs roamed freely. While his attention was distracted, one of his dogs began to violently attack a jogger who was jogging on an adjacent path.
He did not immediately notice the attack until he heard many of the park goers screaming and yelling for assistance. A bystander attempted to separate the dog from the jogger and was bitten on the hand in the process.
John then ran to his dog, put a leash on him and pulled him from the jogger, but not before the dog had severely bitten the jogger's leg.
Some states have a one bite rule meaning that a dog owner is NOT liable for the dangerous propensities of their animals until that animal has bitten someone. In those states, the dog owner must also have some notice that the dog is dangerous since domesticated animals are always presumed to be docile. This law has been outlawed or modified in most states, however.
In New York, for example, dog bites are considered strict liability situations holding dog owners strictly liable for the medical bills and veterinary costs (and only those costs) that are caused by the dog, whether or not the owner knew the dog was dangerous. Aside from those costs, the victim would have to prove that the dog previously had a dangerous propensity.
In other states where the one bite rule has been outlawed, the dog owner would be strictly liable for all that flows from the incident including pain and suffering, etc.
In our case, the dog viciously bit a passing jogger. Therefore, the incident would be handled as a strict liability case. If the parties were in New York, the jogger's and bystander's medical bills would be covered. They would need to establish that the dog was vicious in order to recover anything further.
The jogger was bitten in the leg causing deep, penetrating wounds that required stitches. She was transported to the local urgent care facility by her jogging companion and incurred a bill of $1360.
The pedestrian who attempted to intervene was bitten on the hand. He followed up with his doctor the following day for a tetanus shot and an examination which (without insurance) would have cost $280.
Because people do not usually have "dog bite insurance" or any insurance strictly for the acts of their pets, the dog bit victim would submit a claim under the homeowner's insurance policy.
The Pit Bull owner did not have a separate dog bite insurance policy to cover these expenses. The jogger submitted a claim to him for $3,900 for her medical bills, pain and suffering. The pedestrian did not submit a claim.
John did not earn a significant living and coming up with $3,900 was going to take him an extended amount of time. He had a 401K worth $10,000 which he decided to cash out in order to pay the settlement. Because he did not know he could negotiate this amount, he ended up paying the full demand without making any counter-offers.
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