In my 35 years as a personal injury attorney, I have handled hundreds of dog bite cases across United States. But what is the most interesting to me is that the entire strategy for handling the case may depend on the state where the dog bite takes place. Three current pending cases I’m working on demonstrate the difference.
1. Ohio. An Ohio case involves an eight-year-old girl who had a play date at her friend’s house. The friend opened the door and the family’s three dogs came charging in the room. The smallest dog bit her on the arms and legs.
The bites resulted in small permanent scars, but caused major, permanent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that has resulted in the little girl having substantial problems interacting with anyone outside of her immediate family. Her clinical psychologist paints a grim prognosis.
In this Ohio case, liability is clear.
Under Ohio Statute, there is strict liability (the owner is automatically responsible) unless the dog bite victim was trespassing or teasing the dog. In this case, the only real issue is value of the case.
2. Georgia. A second case involves a two-year-old girl visiting her aunt in Georgia. The aunt wanted a picture of the little girl with the family Labrador. The family Labrador took a large bite out of the little girl’s face. Even after multiple surgeries, the little girl still has very noticeable facial scars and faces potential plastic surgery as a teenager. Virtually every person that meets her asks, “What happened to your face?”
Georgia law is much more difficult. Georgia law allows “one free bite.” We must prove that the dog owner knew or should’ve known the dog had vicious tendencies (i.e. a prior bite). Excessive barking or growling is inadequate.
In this case, the aunt admitted prior bites by the dog. The fact she knew of the prior bites and still wanted the close-up photo of the two together defies common sense. The only remaining issues in this case are damages and value.
3. Texas. A Texas case involves a man taking his 50-year-old girlfriend to meet his father and stepmother. The stepmother was very proud of her 80-pound pet Rottweiler. The Rottweiler went to greet the girlfriend and took a mouthful of her right cheek. Twenty six stitches and a hospital stay later, the girlfriend was left with a massive scar that plastic surgery can reduce but never fix.
Texas law also has the “one bite rule.” In order to recover, we must prove that the dog previously bit a person or acted like they wanted to, and the owner or harborer of the dog was aware of this previous conduct.
In this case, the stepmother bragged of two prior bites by the Rottweiler, one that was so bad that is caused the need for eight stitches in the neighbor girl’s face.
Therefore, the extent of the damage and value is the only pressing issue in this Texas case.
The best way to recover fair and full damages is to know the law of the state and work with an experienced dog bite attorney to prove liability and damages.
It’s also important to remember these four steps to take if you’ve been bit by a dog:
- Seek immediate medical treatment. Not only will this ensure that your health is protected, it will also help prove the extent of your injuries.
- Take photos. Having photos of the initial injury and of different stages of the healing process are extremely helpful and, in our office, we offer to take multiple photos for our clients free of charge.
- Gather witness statements. Having written accounts of what happened from anyone who saw the bite occur will be very helpful in not only proving the case but preventing information from becoming diluted over time.
- Enlist an experienced dog bite lawyer to help you. Getting the insurance company to pay for the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future medical costs can be confusing and difficult.
To ensure that you are getting the most compensation that you are entitled to, having an attorney in your corner to level the playing field will make all the difference.
Still have questions? Contact the attorneys in our office for a free consultation by calling 419-241-1395 or by Live Chatting on our site. We also offer a free book on how to handle dog bite injuries entitled, The Ohio Dog Bite Book, which can be requested by clicking here.