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Settlement of a Dog Bite Injury Claim

With approximately one dog for every four people in the country, it is not surprising that 4.7 million dog bites occur annually in the U.S. And while only about 800,000 of those result in injuries severe enough to need medical treatment, it is still a very serious problem.

But why do dogs bite? And how can you avoid a dog bite when confronted by an aggressive dog? And if you are bitten, who is liable and what settlement might you receive?

Why Dogs Bite

Many people point to the dog owner when a dog is aggressive, and while that may be true in some cases, especially when an owner has mistreated their dog or where they have deliberately trained it to be aggressive, there can be many more reasons behind a dog attack.

  • Fear. Fear is the most common cause behind a dog behaving aggressively toward other dogs as well as humans. Fear can often be instilled in a dog as a result of neglect or abuse by its owner or previous owner. It may not have had good socialization training when it comes to other animals or humans. A dog will likely become aggressive as a result of fear if it feels threatened in any way.
  • Guarding. We have been using dogs to guard us – and our valuables or loved ones – for thousands of years. So it is only natural that a dog may become aggressive if it feels that something it is guarding is under threat. It may be a family member or it may be something as innocuous as a toy, but if someone looks to take or threaten that object or person, then it may lead to aggression.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety in dogs can occur for a variety of reasons; a new home, a new family member (such as a baby), a new pet in the house, or simply some change to the patterns of behavior they know.
  • Alpha behavior. If you live with multiple dogs, or if you interact with a group of dogs, then you may see – and experience – canine aggression as a result of alpha behaviour. When dogs congregate socially or at home, then a pack mentality will always exist to an extent. The dog – or dogs – seeking to be the pack alpha may exhibit aggressive behavior to win control or to exert control. Getting in the middle of any dog versus dog confrontation may lead to you being bitten too.
  • Frustration. If a dog gets frustrated, then it often also gets aggressive. The root cause of that frustration could be varied, but one primary cause is provocation where a human – often a child – is provoking or teasing the dog.
  • Illness. When a dog bites someone or shows other aggressive behavior, it may actually be a sign that it is ill. If you notice that your dog’s temperament has drastically changed, then it is a good idea to have it checked over by a vet.

Many of the reasons for a dog’s aggressive behavior are not the fault of the dog. As a dog owner, you can learn to understand some of your dog’s behavior and what it might mean. For example, while we may view a yawn as a physical sign of tiredness, a dog’s yawn may indicate that it is worried or nervous.

What to Do if Faced by an Aggressive Dog

What actions should you take if faced with an aggressive dog? You may not have time to call animal control and you don’t want to become another dog bite victim, so should you run or stand your ground?

  • Try and put something between you and the dog: a car, a bench, anything that may prevent an attack.
  • Use common commands to see if it recognizes them; stay, sit, etc. Always use a firm and steady voice.
  • Do not panic, scream, run, or make a lot of physical gestures.
  • If you have food with you, throw it for the dog as this may distract them.
  • If possible, get into a position where the dog cannot circle you.
  • If it looks like the dog is about to attack, throw anything you have at it.

If you are attacked:

  • Keep our hands and arms in front of your body to protect vulnerable areas such as the neck and face.
  • Do not try to grab its collar.
  • If it does bite and latches on to a body part such as your arm, do not try and pull it back as tearing may do more damage than a bite.
  • Children should curl into a ball if possible.
  • Although this may sound impossible, teach children not to cry or scream if being attacked.
  • If your child is with you, curl yourself around your child to protect them.
  • Do not attempt to kick or punch the dog as this may inflame them further.

When an attack is over, immediately seek medical attention for any injuries.

The Aftermath

If you have been the victim of a dog bite, record all your injuries and keep track of your medical bills. Michigan’s dog bite laws are very clear in liability nearly always lying with the dog owner. If they have the required coverage, then their insurance company will cover any damages from a dog bite claim including medical costs and lost wages.

If your injuries were serious, contact a law firm with experienced personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. You may find that an initial settlement offer under homeowner’s insurance does not take into account any pain and suffering you may have experienced.

If they do not have insurance, then personal injury law allows you to file a claim for economic damages and non-economic damages (the latter in certain cases). The average settlement in dog bite cases in 2017 was $39,017, but any result in your personal injury case will depend on your individual circumstances.

Final Words

Dog bite attacks can have devastating consequences, but knowing why dogs attack and how to minimize the effects of an aggressive dog can help reduce the chance or effects of being bitten.

In the event that you or a family member has been bitten, Cochran, Kroll & Associates, Inc., has been representing clients in dog bite claims for many years. We offer a first appointment free to evaluate your case. If you would like to schedule a free consultation, please call us at (866)-779-7331. We never charge a fee unless we win your case.

Steve is a former criminal justice worker. With degrees in psychology and social work, he spent most of his life helping those with addiction issues before switching to criminal justice. He was responsible for writing court reports and advising judges on sentencing. He also supervised offenders, including sex offenders, in the community and carried out risk assessments and probation appraisals. He now lives in SE Asia and is working on his 5th novel.

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