Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows from experience that their loyalty and companionship makes them “man’s best friend.” But, anyone who has ever been bitten by a dog has a totally different opinion: The experience is physically and emotionally traumatic.
Dogs bite millions of people each year, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability claims. Ohio dog bite law makes owners liable for every bite—even the first one—except in cases where the victim provoked the dog. Many dog bite victims do not report the attack or seek payment for their injuries. People who have been seriously injured by dogs, however, should understand their legal rights and consider hiring an attorney. If you are bitten or injured in any way by another person’s dog, you can seek compensation from the dog owner’s insurance, or file a dog bite lawsuit against the owner.
Happy Ending for Dog Bite Victim
One day, out of the blue, Graham & Graham lawyer Travis Jones received a phone call from a young man who, as a child, had suffered a dog attack that left his face and hands severely disfigured. For ten years, he endured the scars—both physical and emotional—because his mother did not pursue legal charges against the dog owner after the attack. Now, as an adult in charge of his own affairs, he called Travis, searching for any type of legal action he could take that might pay for the plastic surgery he needed but couldn’t afford.
From the instant Travis heard the man’s story, he had an overwhelming desire to help him. He jumped in the car and drove to his home over an hour away to meet with him in person. Within seven months after that initial call, Travis had settled the claim with the dog owner’s insurance company. The young man, who had suffered too long, finally received enough money to have the surgery he needed—to become whole again—and to get a place of his own and enroll in college.
Ohio Ranks Near Top for Dog Bite Claims
Dogs bite approximately 4.5 million Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 1 in 5 dog bite victims require medical attention, the CDC also notes.
Ohioans rank third in the country for dog bite insurance claims, reports Cleveland 19 News. That figure is based on 2018 State Farm insurance data showing 177 dog bite claims filed in Ohio, at a cost of around $27,000 per claim. Data from the Insurance Information Institute ranks Ohio eighth overall for dog bite insurance claims in 2018, with 727 claims and an average cost per claim of $28,900.
Many dog bites are not reported because the bites do not warrant medical attention. But dog bite horror stories are common. For example, the following attacks were reported in Ohio during the past year:
- A 5-year old girl suffered severe injuries from a dog attack in Hamilton, reports Fox 19. The attack fractured the girl’s jaw in two places and required the insertion of a metal plate.
- In Georgetown, a 12-year old boy was mauled so severely that he was transported by medical helicopter to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, according to Cincinnati.com.
- A 6-year old boy received more than 200 stiches and required plastic surgery after a dog attack in Springfield, reports the Springfield News-Sun.
- Several people were bitten by a pack of dogs in Akron, including one woman who suffered severe bite wounds to her legs and feet, according to News 5 Cleveland.
Dog Bite Liability
The examples above reflect the general trend that children are more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog, and that certain breeds, such as Pit Bull Terriers, account for a disproportionate number of dog bites.
In fact, some home insurance companies blacklist Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and other breeds that they consider to be risky. The owner of a blacklisted dog may be charged a higher premium, denied coverage altogether, or denied dog bite coverage.
Typically, when a dog injures somebody, the dog owner’s home insurance covers the victim’s losses, which can include medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. But when the owner does not have dog bite coverage, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the owner.
Ohio is a “strict liability” state for dog bites. This means that it is not necessary to prove that the dog’s owner acted negligently (i.e., failed to control the dog or prevent the bite from occurring). Simply being bitten is enough to hold the owner liable, except in cases where the victim was trespassing, committing, or attempting to commit a crime, or abusing, teasing, or tormenting the dog.
When to Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer
Even though Ohio law makes it relatively easy to hold dog owners responsible for bites, this doesn’t mean that the case won’t be complicated.
For starters, assuming that the owner has insurance, dealing with an insurance company is rarely straightforward, since insurers are in the business of minimizing payouts. The insurer might try to argue, for example, that you are partly responsible for being bitten.
Matters can become more complex if the owner doesn’t have insurance and your only option is to file a lawsuit. Filing a dog bite lawsuit without an attorney is not recommended. Only an attorney can accurately evaluate the value of your claim, determine which laws apply to the case, and effectively present evidence. Especially when a dog bite causes serious, disfiguring injuries, not hiring an attorney could result in inadequate compensation.
Receive a Free Dog Bite Case Review
At the very least, you should discuss a dog bite injury with an attorney. During a free case review with Graham & Graham, we’ll go over what happened and help you decide the best course of action. In most dog bite cases, we represent victims on a contingency-fee basis, which makes legal services affordable because we only collect a fee if we win your case.
To speak with a lawyer about a dog bite incident, please contact Graham & Graham.