The High Costs of Dog Bites to Children

Every thirty-six seconds, somebody in the United States is bitten by a dog. More than half of dog bite victims are children. Dog bites are a greater health risk to children than common diseases, such as mumps and measles, and occur more frequently than injuries from bicycles, playgrounds, skateboards, and ATVs. One out of four children bitten by a dog will require a trip to an emergency room or a doctor. But the cost of medical treatment is only part of the recovery process. Many child dog bite victims also experience long-term psychological trauma and scarring from their injuries.

None of this is meant to scare you. At the same time, parents and dog owners should be aware that dogs, particularly certain breeds, can present a very real threat to young children.

For owners, after your dog attacks a human (or even another domestic animal), you may face criminal charges, forced euthanasia, and/or civil litigation. For victims, a dog bite lawsuit can provide compensation for medical bills, and just as important, physical scarring and emotional injuries. An experienced dog bite attorney should be retained to accurately evaluate these potentially high-cost cases.

Owners are Responsible For Their Dogs’ Actions

Dog owners understand that a pet is a big responsibility. But they may not fully understand the legal responsibilities of dog ownership.

In many cases, homeowner’s insurance will cover money damages awarded to dog bite victims from a civil lawsuit. This is not a guarantee, though. Some insurance companies refuse to insure homeowners who own pit bulls and other dog breeds categorized as dangerous, charge higher premiums for these breeds, or require owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites. Other insurers decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog has been deemed vicious based on a previous attack. Once a dog has bitten, they may charge a higher premium, exclude the dog from coverage, or even refuse coverage. Dog owners without insurance protection may be in for a significant out-of-pocket expense if their dog is involved in an unprovoked attack.

Characteristics of Dog Bites

There are more than 50,000,000 dogs in the United States. America’s fondness for dogs can blind us to the unpleasant fact that every year a lot of people, especially children, are getting bit.  These aren’t just nips on the ankle, either. Nearly one million dog bites each year require medical attention, including 334,000 that warrant hospital treatment, according to the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. And while only about 12 percent of adults bitten by a dog require medical treatment, that figure is more than double for children.

Individual dog bite attacks can be random, but when you look at the overall trends, patterns emerge:

  • Children younger than two and between the ages of 9 and 12 are most commonly bitten.
  • Most studies show that boys are bitten more often than girls.
  • Boys ages 5 to 9 are the most common dog bite victims.
  • Younger children tend to suffer injuries to the head, neck, and face.
  • Every year, about 600,000 children require medical attention for dog bites.
  • The average cost of a dog-bite related hospital stay is around $20,000—more than double the cost of the average injury-related hospital stay.
  • One study shows that about 49 percent of children bitten required wound closure; most of them also required consultation with plastic surgeons and other specialists. About 20 percent required surgery, and about ten percent were hospitalized four days or longer, mostly due to infection.
  • Plastic surgeons perform approximately 30,000 dog bite reconstructive surgeries annually.
  • Facial disfigurement victims tend to suffer serious psychological trauma, including a loss of identity, that requires extensive therapy.
  • The dog is usually known to the victim: more than three-quarters of biting dogs are owned by the victims’ family, a relative, or a family friend.
  • Pit bulls are the breed most responsible for dog bites. They make up only 6 percent of the dog population but are responsible for 68 percent of attacks, according to TIME.

Statistics like these tell a big part of the story. However, actual dog bite stories drive home the point of just how traumatic these attacks can be. Just this month, March 2021, a pair of pit bulls mauled a 3-year-old to death in New Jersey and severely injured the child’s mother. Last year in Ohio, there were similar incidents in Akron and Dayton.

Evaluating a Dog Bite Case

Horrific stories of dogs attacking children are shockingly common. Yet long after these headlines fade from memory, survivors are still living with their physical and emotional scars.

The costs of a dog attack injury can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars and up. As Graham & Graham personal injury attorney Robert McClelland explains, in addition to the risk of infection and the jagged nature of these injuries, a victim’s pain and suffering factor heavily into evaluating these cases.

According to attorney McClelland, “It’s not just the effects from the initial bite that can be so devastating, but the aftermath of the bite, such as the psychological trauma from a dog bite scar that can last a lifetime. It is so important to hire a legal advocate who understands ALL of your injuries, including future pain and suffering, in order to maximize the recovery for such a life changing loss.”

Graham & Graham provides free dog bite case reviews and handles these cases on a contingency-fee basis. To speak with a member of our firm about a dog bite incident, please call 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us.

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