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How Do I File a Dog Bite Claim?

Dog owners are legally liable for bite injuries inflicted by their dogs.
Documentation is important when filing a dog bite claim.
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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2014
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A dog is usually seen as an extension of its owner in the eyes of the law, so when a dog bites a human the dog's owner may be liable for damages to that human. If you decide to file a dog bite claim, there are certain procedures that should be observed. First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself by seeking medical attention if necessary. The next step should be to call a lawyer and discuss the case; specific documentation will be required to file a dog bite claim, including proof of injuries and information about past incidents with the dog. It is important to refrain from bargaining with the dog's owner or having any contact with that person until a legal strategy has been fully defined.

It is a good idea to go into a dog bite injury suit with reasonable expectations. A dog bite claim may fail if the dog has never bitten anyone before nor shown any vicious tendencies. If you were provoking the dog by hitting it or even simply teasing it, there is a very good chance that your claim will fail. It is also important to make sure that you can demonstrate actual damages, such as the need for medical treatment, because the claim can only result in financial gain if damages can be shown. In general, if the dog bite did not cause any medically visible injuries, it may not be worth the effort of filing a dog bite claim.

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When you have determined that your case has a reasonable chance of success, the next step is to contact a local lawyer. Some personal injury lawyers may develop entire offices devoted to this type of injury, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are the best lawyer for the job. Before choosing a lawyer, make sure you research his reputation and success rate. If you already have a lawyer, he or she may be able to file a dog bit claim for you.

Documentation is key to filing a dog bite claim. You must be sure to give your lawyer all available evidence of any injuries. It is usually the lawyer's job to collect information about previous incidents involving the dog, which he or she may get from the police or animal control. Typically, the lawyer will contact the dog owner's insurance as well. Laws concerning dog bites vary by jurisdiction, so a lawyer who is knowledgeable about local dog bite laws is essential.

If you are concerned about the safety of people around the dog, it may be a good idea to call the police or animal control directly after being bitten by an animal. For your own safety, it is essential that you obtain any available information about the dog from its owner, because you may need to be treated for rabies. While it can be tempting to lash out at the owner or to accept a deal with the owner, minimal contact is truly the best strategy when filing a dog bite claim. Once the claim is in the hands of a lawyer, you need only follow his or her directions in order to make a reasonable case.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Terrificli -- Even if there is a criminal statute that holds people liable if they have dogs that bite people in your area, relying on the criminal justice system to get any cash may be a problem.

That is because victim restitution awarded in a criminal case usually isn't just a whole lot of money. If you really want some cash, file a civil suit against the dog owner.

Of course, a criminal conviction against that dog owner might help your case as it establishes without question that he or she is liable and that will make it easier to force the dog owner to settle or get a jury to see things your way. So, a criminal conviction can help you but I wouldn't rely on victim restitution to get that "I want to retire right now" money.

Terrificli
Post 1

Of course, you could always save a few bucks and talk to your favorite, local prosecuting attorney before you contact a private lawyer. Quite often, there are criminal laws against allowing a dog to get loose and bite people and the criminal justice system often allows for some victim compensation.

So, you could get some money for your pain and suffering and all of that, plus you won't have to pay an attorney. Not a bad deal at all.

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