Learn why the owner’s insurance may not cover dog bites. See how our victim is compensated after her insurance claim is denied.
Here we examine the case of a woman who is mauled by a pit bull in a public park.
When her injury claim is denied by the dog owner’s insurance company, she takes additional steps to get the compensation she deserves.
This case study is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events, although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
We’ll review the dog attack, injuries, liability, the insurance claim, and the final case resolution.
Our study finishes up with a list of important points about dog bite insurance claims.
Jogger Attacked by Loose Dog
On a sunny Saturday morning, John took his two Pit Bulls to the dog section of a public municipal park. He unleashed the dogs 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.
John didn’t realize what was happening until he heard screaming and people yelling for help.
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.
Sharon enjoyed jogging every weekend. On this warm Saturday morning, she was heading back home when she jogged through the municipal park. She didn’t see the dog that streaked toward her until it viciously clamped down on the back of her bare leg.
Sharon screamed in terror and pain as she fell. Twisting as she fell, she tried kicking with her other foot at the animal that was savaging her leg and wouldn’t let go.
One of the men who ran to her aid tried to pry the dog’s mouth loose. About that time, John ran forward and managed to leash his dog and drag it away from Sharon.
A bystander called 911 and took videos of Sharon as she sat sobbing in a pool of blood while another woman tried to wrap a shirt around the wounded leg. The alert bystander also had a video of John dragging his dog away as the dog continued to snarl and snap with a blood-stained face.
Damages and Liability
Sharon was transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital. The gashes to her lower leg required dozens of stitches. She was also treated for shock and given antibiotics to prevent infection.
Sharon went to her primary doctor for follow-up care. Her medical bills totaled $4,000.
Sharon accrued $2,000 in lost wages, as she couldn’t perform her duties as a registered nurse until the pain and swelling in her leg subsided enough for her to be on her feet for twelve-hour shifts.
As required by law, the hospital notified the county Animal Control office of the dog bite. The case was immediately investigated by an animal control officer who tracked down John and verified the dog was vaccinated for rabies.
Because the officer was able to confirm the dog was not likely to be rabid, he spared Sharon the pain and stress of undergoing a series of rabies shots.
The dog attack occurred in a “strict liability” state, meaning John was automatically responsible for Sharon’s damages, even if his dog had never shown aggressive behavior before the attack.
John was negligent for letting his dog run loose in a public area. Further, the municipality where John and Sharon both reside has a dangerous dog ordinance that prohibits a resident from keeping breeds known to be aggressive, including Pit Bulls.
John was completely liable, meaning responsible for Sharon’s damages.
The Unsuccessful Insurance Claim
Sharon sent a demand package to John’s homeowner’s insurance company seeking $15,000 for her medical expenses, lost wages, and her pain and suffering.
She was shocked to get a denial letter from the insurance company. John’s insurance company explained that the policy expressly excludes coverage for damages arising from illegal activity, and John violated the town’s dangerous dog ordinance by keeping a prohibited dog breed.
Although the insurance company wouldn’t pay, John was still on the hook. Sharon made it clear to him he could find a way to pay for her damages, or she would hire an attorney to seek a judgment against him in court.
John did not want to be named in a lawsuit or risk the embarrassment of having his wages garnished to pay a court judgment. He decided to borrow against his 401K account, but he was only allowed to withdraw $11,000 after paying hefty penalties for early withdrawal.
John felt terrible about Sharon’s injuries. He had apologized to Sharon and never tried to shirk his responsibility. He explained his financial situation to Sharon, who agreed to accept the $11,000 in full settlement for her damages.
Important Points About Dog Bite Claims
- Depending on where the attack occurred, some states have a “one bite rule” that let the owner off the hook if the dog has never been aggressive before. Others are strict liability states that hold the dog owner responsible for any unprovoked attack.
- The dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies are the best places to start when seeking compensation for a dog attack.
- If your insurance claim is denied or the dog’s owner is uninsured, your alternative is to pursue the dog owner directly for payment.
- Small claims court may be a good option if you want to handle your dog bite claim without an attorney.
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