We Love Dogs, But They Don’t Always Love Us
An dog attack can be potentially fatal, especially if a child, someone who’s elderly or disabled is the victim. In addition to serious injuries that could be inflicted, victims suffer the emotional trauma of coping with a violent attack. It’s estimated 63.4 million American households have dogs.
An Attack Could Happen Anywhere There are Dogs
Dog bites are common and leave people of all ages injured:
- A pit bull mauled a three-year-old in a Texas restaurant in January, reports the Lexington Herald Leader. The dog bit her face and shook her before it was pulled off her. She received 14 stitches to close the wound. The dog’s owner left the scene but was later arrested and charged with felony injury to a child and tampering with physical evidence. The dog had bitten two other people in the past year
- A 62-year old man walking in a Louisville park was attacked by three dogs in January, reports WHAS. He was hospitalized and faces a long recovery for bites all over his body. City officials later found the dogs. They had no tags or chips and were later put down
Millions of Dogs, Millions of Injuries
Forty-eight Americans were killed by dogs in 2019, according to the organization Dogs Bite, with 521 killed from 2005 to 2019. In 2019, two-thirds of the victims were adults, with slightly more than a quarter being nine years old or younger.
Dogs Bite estimates that:
- About 1,000 Americans need emergency care at hospitals for serious dog bite injuries every day
- Each year 14,025 people are hospitalized because of dog bites.
A 2010 study of dog bite-related hospitalizations found the most common diagnoses were skin and tissue infections (43.2%), open wounds of extremities (22.1%), and open wounds of the head, neck, and trunk (10.5%). Other diagnoses included fractures of upper and lower limbs as well internal injuries.
Dog attacks victims often suffer severe injuries, which could require $250,000 to one million dollars in medical treatment. Reconstructive and plastice surgery, such as skin grafts, tissue expansion and scar diminishment, often need many procedures over a period of years.
The organization states:
- Per capita, rural areas compared to urban areas had three times as many dog bite-related hospitalizations and four times as many emergency department visits in 2008
- Insurance companies paid $797 million in liability claims related to bites and other dog-related injuries in 2019
- The average insurance claim payment has risen 134% from 2003 to 2019. The reasons are increased medical costs, settlements, judgments, and jury awards. In 2019 the average paid dog bite claim was $44,760
- The average price of a dog bite-related hospitalization was $18,200, about 50% higher than the average injury-related hospital stay
Kentucky Law is Friendly to Legal Claims by Dog Bit Victims
Kentucky’s dog bite law states a dog owner is liable for harm their dog causes to “a person, livestock, or other property.” In legal terms, the law imposes “strict liability” on owners. If the dog causes injuries (not just due to bites), the owner is responsible.
It doesn’t matter if the dog was aggressive before or not. Whether the owner used reasonable care to control the dog or tried to prevent the attack also aren’t issues. In other states, the dog attack victim must show the owner was aware the dog was a threat to others but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the dog bite. That’s not the case in Kentucky.
Also unlike laws in other states, there’s no liability exception if the bite victim provoked or harassed the dog or was trespassing on the owner’s property. However, Kentucky has a comparative negligence system. A judge or jury decides the degree of fault for each party in a dog bite lawsuit. If the victim was trespassing and harassed the dog, the victim may get most of the blame. If a victim is found 75% at fault, the recovery will be reduced by 75%. A $10,000 award becomes a $2,500 award.
What’s less victim-friendly is Kentucky’s one-year statute of limitations on filing lawsuits. You have a year from the dog bite to file a lawsuit against the owner. You shouldn’t wait nearly that long to do so. Call our office as soon as possible after the attack so we can investigate your case, gather evidence, and start the process of filing a claim against the dog owner’s insurance carrier.
What’s the next step?
If a dog injured you or a family member, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. We’ll talk about what happened, your injuries, the law, and your best options to proceed. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.